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In terms of articulating your leadership philosophy, you need to think beyond the leader/lead dyad. A lot of times we get focused on, "This is how I interact with a person, "and that's what leadership is about." As a leader, you need to look at yourself more completely as an individual, in a variety of domains. As I've looked at leadership and tried to be more complete in the thinking about it, there are really four aspects of leadership that I invite you to think about. First is leading yourself.
Where are you going? What's important to you? What are your personal ethical standards? What are the beliefs that underpin how you're going to interact with the members of your team? Next is leading the thinking. You as the leader need to set direction for where the team is headed. You need to articulate behavioral standards for what you will and won't stand for from the members of your team. Next is leading your people. We need to lead people as individuals.
You can't treat them as faceless cogs in the machine, because that won't inspire them. That won't get the best performance out of them. Leading your people is all about understanding what their personal wants and needs are, and what motivates them. The last aspect of leadership is leading a balanced life, because if you're burned out, you're worthless to the members of your team. Additionally, as a leader, you set the tone, so you are going to set an example on balance, and making sure that you stay in balance is important to making sure the team stays in balance.
Now, a maxim is a principle or rule of conduct, and across those four aspects of leadership you're going to articulate your personal leadership maxims. A maxim is a short, pithy statement that serves as a reminder for how you want to behave. They need to be emotionally-resonant for you. They need to stir up strong feelings, because those strong feelings are going to drive you to behave in a certain way. The maxim needs to be simple-enough that you can explain the story behind it to the members of your team, because you're going to give them a window into what's important and exciting and inspiring to you, and it's going to help them understand this is why you behave, because you were in a situation previously that lead to this set of feelings, and if you're in a similar situation, you're going to behave in that consistent manner.
No buzzwords. No consultospeak. They're going to be a reflection of you at a specific point in time. Your maxims should grow as you grow and have new experiences as a leader. In terms of where you can find your maxims, you already know all the answers. I'm just here to give you the tools to be able to pull them out. Maxims can come from situations where you interacted with somebody important to you. It can be a boss, a family member, a coach, who said something so profound and so inspiring to you that you say, "There's real emotional resonance for me in that." Maxims can come from situations you found yourself in as a leader, or a member of a team, that really meant a great deal to you.
Maxims are sometimes found in stories, in song, in poetry, in scripture. Things that moved you. You don't even have to be sure why it moved you. It just did move you. It became a fundamental belief that you have. Maxims are all around you, and you need to go back inside, go back into your prior history, and think about those situations that really meant a great deal for you, then create the trigger that reminds you of that situation, or the phrase or the words that were actually used by that person who was meaningful to you.
That phrase and that situation is what's going to guide your behavior going forward. You're then going to create your leadership maxims across all the aspects of leadership, and the sum of those maxims becomes your personal leadership philosophy.
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