7 Guiding Leadership Principles

5 April 2021



Effective leaders have the ability to communicate well, motivate their team, handle and delegate responsibilities, listen to feedback, and have the flexibility to solve problems in an ever-changing workplace. These are my 7 guiding leadership principles to be high performing leader of a team and business.


#1 – Model the Way

What does it mean to ‘model the way’? It’s the act of authentically embracing and displaying your values to those around you. Leaders who model the way encourage others to follow by setting an example.

They lead with optimism and positivity. More importantly their actions align with their shared values and greatly influence those of others. Kouzes and Posner believe “values influence every aspect of our lives: our moral judgements, our responses to others, our commitments to personal and organizational goals.” Talk is cheap. Anyone can talk up a good game, however people are more likely to act when they see their leader doing.

“When people see you doing what you say, then they have the evidence that you mean it. Otherwise, it’s just words. Your actions send the loudest signals about what other people should be doing.” Kouzes and Posner.

Two ways you can adapt this leadership principle: (more so during these COVID times):

  • Be clear about your values and the organization’s values so others can see why you do what you do.
  • Show your values in how you talk and act to establish credibility and authenticity as a leader.

#2 – Develop Your Team

Leaders who take the time and make the effort to develop their team will reap the rewards tenfold and have an advantage over competitors. ⁠ ⁠

Who is responsible for team development? In some organizations it’s HR, trainers, senior leaders. They are all right – to a point. Leaders are responsible for the teams performance therefore responsible for developing their team. They should certainly use all the tools and support available from HR, trainers and their leaders but leaders understand and know what is best for their team.

How do you develop your team?⁠

  1. Ensure each person understands their role.;
  2. Provide training based on skills gaps;
  3. ⁠Don’t micro-manage – let them do their job;
  4. Mistakes happen and it’s a learning- support them, don’t chastise them⁠;
  5. Discuss their personal and professional goals regularly⁠;
  6. Use your resources – HR, Trainers, other leaders⁠ .

What’s in it for the team member?⁠

  • Engagement;
  • More productive;
  • Successfully contribute to the team ;
  • Become and expert ⁠

What’s in it for you as the leader other than results?⁠ Great leaders attract, hire, and inspire great people. People will be lining up to work for you. That’s a good thing.⁠ ⁠

#3  – Business Acumen as a Leadership Principle

Business acumen also known as being business savvy is the understanding of how your business makes money. Understanding the big picture and inter-relationships between various areas of the business that drives growth and profitability. It is not a skill but rather a combination of competencies, knowledge and awareness of multiple aspects of the business.

Why is it important as a leadership guiding principle? If you are business savvy, you are able to contribute to the goals of the organisation, solve simple and complex problems while understanding the bigger picture and understand the consequences of your decisions. As a leader you are able to effectively guide your team and their contribution.

You can develop business acumen through experience, self-learning networking, reading and training. I recommend reading Good to Great by Jim Collins.

#4 – Effective Communication as a Leadership Principle

Confusion, missing deadlines, lack of understanding, poor execution, missing information. Sound familiar?

The #1 complaint from individuals in a survey I conducted says that communication is ineffective from their leaders.

Communication is the ability to exchange information clearly to another person or group of individuals. Effective communication is communication that is delivered, received and understood successfully so that what you say is interpreted as you intended. Some skills to focus on to be an effective communicator.

  • Listen, listen, listen – one of the most important aspects
  • Non-verbal communication – body language and tone
  • Clear and concise – the more concise you are, the easier to understand – less is best
  • Personable – make it about the person not yourself Confidence – be clear on what information you want to convey

For more information read my article on communication.

There are so many aspects to effective communication. I encourage you to read, research, chat to effective communicators – it will hold you in good stead in all aspects of your life.

#5- The Right Environment

Why is this leadership principle so important? Have you ever walked into a place of work and felt the negative energy and tension? That environment is not good for employees or customers. So how do you create a positive work environment as a leader?

I always think about it from the perspective – if this were my son or daughter, brother or sister, what kind of environment would I want them to work in? A few tips:

  • Have a robust onboarding process that includes the entire team.
  • Empower your team to do their best work
  • Have regular informal check-ins with each individual
  • Encourage collaboration
  • Facilitate training and development
  • Have fun

The benefits of a positive work environment:

  • It alleviates stress
  • Removes negativity
  • Increases productivity
  • It is inspiring and motivational
  • You achieve better results
  • Teamwork and collaboration improves which leads to innovation
  • You will be able to solve problems as a team more effectively

As the leader this is your responsibility however, use the strengths of your team to create a positive work environment.

#6 – Vision Plans and Goals

A vision, plan and goals gives purpose and direction to you and your team.

A vision is a picture in words and is aligned to what the organisation hopes to achieve in the future. It is inspiring and motivational. It helps with long-term planning. A vision should have the following elements:

  • Be concise
  • Be clear
  • Have a time-line into the future
  • Be challenging
  • Be abstract
  • Be inspiring

An example of a vison:

Patagonia “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

A plan is a clear roadmap on how you will achieve your vision. It shows the actions needed to achieve the goals. A plan usually has the following elements:

  • Defines your competitive advantage
  • Focuses on systematic growth
  • Is agile
  • Is inclusive
  • Overcomes challenges.

Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation. Goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely

Once you have your vision, plan and goals it is important to communicate it regularly and review it at a minimum annually.

#7 – Discipline as a Leadership Principle

Discipline is… what is meant to happen, happens! Yes it is that simple, however hard to do.

I know that discipline sometimes conjures up the image of the big stick. It is actually the complete opposite when done well. As a leader it starts with you and is incredibly important. Being disciplined creates clarity and consistency for your team. It supports building a high performing team and creates accountability. It also allows your team to have the space to perform their role successfully.

Ever worked for a leader where they change their mind about the strategy or plan every week? Remember how frustrated you felt as the direction was not clear and it probably caused turmoil amongst the team? This is an example of an undisciplined leader. Having the discipline to stay on course and execute your plan leads to success.

Of course we need to be flexible as the environment is changing, however the change in strategy and plans should be supported by fact not whim. A disciplined leader identifies what is important and focuses on the 20% that will drive 80% of the result. Discipline improves productivity, execution of strategy, growth and profit.

These are my 7 guiding principles. It takes a life-time to work on them, however, being a leader is about continuous growth and learning. I challenge you to use these 7 leadership principles – it will bring you success and your team will be forever grateful to have you as their leader.