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Blog Insight & Commentary

Why a Personal Leadership Philosophy Is Important (Even if You're Not the Boss)

Women are uniquely positioned to create safe and respectful workplaces

Stephanie Olsen
Contributor

illustration of leadership

A business is only as good as those who lead it. And while you might think that your boss is the sole leader at your workplace, leaders are found at every level of every organization. Whether you work in a department of 1,000 or two, you’re a leader yourself. Even if you’re a one-woman show as a sole proprietor, you can be a leader in your industry or business community.

So, what is your personal leadership philosophy? Do you have one? Do you know exactly what it is? Do you think of it as just another workplace buzzword or can it actually benefit a woman’s career? Let’s take a look.

What is good leadership?

Before defining your own leadership philosophy, you need to know what good leadership is.

Good leaders do more than manage teams, departments, and companies. And remember, good leaders don’t even have to be the boss. They can be colleagues who inspire and influence everyone around them to do better. They are consistent and lead by example; you can see a leader’s philosophy in action by their behaviors and attitudes.

Discovering your leadership philosophy

Your leadership philosophy is very personal. The way you lead is ultimately based on your character and beliefs; how you respond to colleagues and work situations actively demonstrates your philosophy.

The best leaders are teachers. They know which behaviors will lead to desired outcomes, and they don’t stop at simply stating their requirements. Instead, they consistently demonstrate the behaviors and actions that lead to those outcomes.

Sometimes visual thinking can help define your personal philosophy on leadership. Eric McNulty, associate director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative and co-author of You’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When It Matters Most, recommends sketching a stick figure representation of yourself as leader in order to reveal your leadership style.

For instance, a female CEO of a global tech firm drew herself at the center of a network. This indicates she sees herself as a connector rather than a leader giving orders from the top down. In contrast, McNulty’s academic colleague whose style of leadership includes a lot of guidance, sketched two figures, the shorter one looking up at the taller, in the manner of receiving advice.

McNulty says the exercise is useful because your brain is stimulated in ways that are different than when you’re writing or speaking. Using the creative side of your brain to define your leadership style leads to a deeper understanding.

If you’re still having trouble defining your own leadership philosophy, try completing sentence prompts. For example, how would you finish the statement beginning with “I respect team members by…”? If you can think of ways you show respect to your colleagues (by actively listening to, developing and implementing new ideas, for instance), you’ll be better able to articulate and form your own, authentic statement of belief.  

Benefits of leadership philosophy to women’s careers

Good leadership is of course crucial to any company’s bottom line. And while fear-based leaders can force employee motivation and compliance in the short term, it’s inspirational leadership that will get true worker buy-in, leading to long-term employee engagement. A company with thoughtful leadership will benefit from increased productivity, better customer service, and decreased turnover.

Women are uniquely positioned to create safe and respectful workplaces. And according to Pew Research, women (more than men) are also seen to value people from different backgrounds, mentor young employees, and consider the societal impact of business decisions.

These natural leadership abilities will become increasingly advantageous to women’s careers as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With automation and artificial intelligence radically changing the workplace, the value of skill sets is also being redefined. Those on the way out, according to the World Economic Forum, include manual dexterity and tech installation, while leadership and emotional intelligence are increasing in value.

2022 Skills Outlook by the World Economic Forum

Source: World Economic Forum

Developing a personal leadership philosophy isn’t a one-time event; it’s a process that evolves and matures over time. Looking to women in leadership who inspire can help you adapt your own approach, crystallizing your goals and philosophy.

Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO of TaskRabbit, is one woman leader who serves as a great example. When asked how her sense of values manifest in her leadership style, she said:

“I think that many of my lessons have been around being authentic as a leader, being fully who I am as a person and allowing that authenticity to shape my leadership style. I was a different leader when I worked in India with Google. Earlier I joined companies that shared my values and now I get to shape a company that reflects my values. I’ve learned to connect the individual to the collective we are trying to create. I value honesty and integrity, and character means everything to me.”

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