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11 Principles of Leadership

Jun 18, 2020

Being an amazing leader doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of work and effort for people to develop their leadership skills. Leadership is often discussed in-depth in seminars and books, and even in degree programs. There are entire degrees dedicated to helping students become better leaders. These programs are essential as they help future leaders learn specific skills they need to thrive in a business setting, as well as communication and management techniques that will help them work effectively in leading a team. 

Good leaders know that effective leadership doesn’t come easily. They work to cultivate leadership behaviors that will help them be effective and inspiring to their team. Good leaders also need to have solid leadership principles that they live by. Leadership principles are the framework of actions that a leader will take to help them get their team to the common goal. And good leaders understand what their principles need to be, and put them into practice every day.

If you’re studying to become a leader, it’s important to learn about leadership principles and determine which ones you can focus on. While there are various styles of leadership and unique leadership theories, great leaders have similar principles that help them find success. These 11 principles of leadership are vital for management professionals to possess so they can achieve their business goals. 

1. Admit your mistakes.

To err is human, but some leaders are uncomfortable with the idea that their team could see them make a mistake. It can be a challenge to admit when you are wrong, but it’s extremely valuable and actually important for teams to see their leaders make mistakes and admit to them. It gives them the idea that they can also make mistakes and learn from them. Seeing a boss admit to a mistake can help humanize them, and actually help employees relate to and respect them more. Good leaders are up to the challenge—they show that it’s important to own your mistakes, help fix them, learn from them, and move on. This helps them set a great example for their organization. Being unwilling to admit mistakes can lead to employees not trusting their leaders, worrying that they will get in trouble if they mess-up in any way, and a lack of responsibility that can cause huge issues for your team. Being able to admit mistakes is a valuable leadership principle.

2. Be a good listener.

Great leaders know that communication is a two-way street that starts with listening. If a leader isn’t a good listener, the result will be that their team is far less likely to listen to them in return. Great leaders know that listening is key to helping them gain trust and respect of their team. Being willing to not only listen, but really hear what your team is telling you, is key to being aware of problems and how to fix them. Teams will communicate problems, concerns, ideas, and things about themselves that can help leaders know better how to inspire, motivate, and work with them. Good listeners don’t have to agree with everything they hear, but they commit to listening and working to understand it, using what they've heard to make decisions. Leaders that listen ensure teams that they validate and understand what they’re going through, and even if they take the team in a different direction, they know that they were heard and understood. 

3. Be innovative.

Leaders can’t rest on their laurels and expect their team to be the creative machine. Innovation is key to a successful leader. Their job is to think outside the box, be creative, and help inspire the team to do the same. Great leaders see a bigger picture and can help their team understand larger, long-term goals. Leaders that innovate show their teams that they are current and relevant—teams want to know that their leaders understand trends and are prepared for the future. So they learn about innovation, tech trends, and utilize them in their organization regularly. This helps ensure them that they won’t become obsolete. Leaders who innovate and think outside the box motivate their employees to catch the vision and utilize their creativity as well. This helps everyone be more successful.

4. Communicate.

Good leaders know that open communication is the hallmark of good leadership. Without open communication, employees have no idea what is expected of them. They will feel that they aren’t cared about, that they are out of the loop, and that their manager isn’t honest with them. Communication can help clear up misunderstandings or prevent them all together. It can also help employees better understand and trust decisions that are made. It helps employees feel confident to speak to managers about issues and concerns, and encourages everyone to establish good relationships. Communication involves listening well, and speaking clearly. Good leaders use their listening skills to help them know what to say, how to motivate, and what their team needs to hear. This helps everyone get on the same page, and go for the same goals.

5. Continuously brush-up on your leadership skills.

Good leaders know that practice makes perfect. In order to continue to be a good leader every day, you must practice and work at it. This can involve reading books or articles, listening to podcasts, attending workshops, or even going back to school for another degree. Leaders demonstrate their commitment to learning about new strategies and trends, showing their employees that they are committed to bettering themselves. This can inspire employees to also want to work on self-improvement. Good leaders are always looking for ways they can get better, connect more with their employees, and be the best leader they can be.

6. Create common values.

Great leaders know the importance of values. They have their own standards, morals, and values that guide their work, and expect the same of their team. When the team shares common values, there is little room for confusing or misunderstanding. Good leaders always promote ethical and moral behavior in the workplace, and hold their teams to the same standard. They focus on professionalism and want to ensure everyone else does as well. They lead by example, but also have clear expectations when it comes to their values so there can be no misunderstanding. The right values help institute a great company culture for the team. And if there is an issue with values, they address it immediately and professionally. 

7. Embrace change.

Change is a part of life, and leaders can help teams embrace change whole-heartedly. Good leaders don’t grumble or complain when change comes—instead they lead by example and show the positive results that can come. They show that changes are necessary and can help enhance an organization or a team. And when leaders make the decision embrace change, the entire company is more likely to as well. Leaders with exceptional talent and good instincts see change as new possibilities for growth and improvement, and treat it that way. Because new things and change are an inevitability, learning to embrace it will make everything go more smoothly.

8. Lead by example.

Ultimately one of the greatest principles a leader can have is leading by example. Everything they do will end up being reflected in the actions of their employees. If a leader complains, doesn’t do work well, and is unprofessional, they can expect the same from their team. If they are kind, excited about work, honest, and dedicated, their team is likely to follow. Good leaders know that their every move may be being watched, so they work hard to ensure everything they do is something their team can follow. This doesn’t mean that leaders don’t make mistakes—on the contrary, the way leaders handle mistakes is in and of itself an opportunity to lead by example! 

9. Make everyone feel important.

Leaders don’t have favorites. Effective leadership involves making everyone you interact with feel like an important member of the team. If a leader seems to favor someone over someone else, people notice. It can decrease morale, cause a lack of respect, and even create issues between workers. Good leaders focus on unifying and uplifting the whole team. They work with individuals to help them see what their role is, how they can benefit the organization, and why they matter. Doing this helps team members see the great things that each of them add, and can help them recognize that in each other as well. 

10. Promote a diverse work environment.

Diversity is key to a successful work environment. Good leaders work hard to hire people who are a different race, gender, or lifestyle from their own. They work to bring diverse teams together so they can learn from each other. Great leaders focus on recruiting and hiring diverse team members, giving proper training so everyone feels comfortable and safe at work, and enhancing programs that help increase diversity and inclusion. Great leaders understand that for minorities, it can be overwhelming and nerve-wracking to come to work. They work to create teams that are polite and respectful of one another. Good leaders also work to bring diverse leadership into their fold. There are huge benefits from added diversity in leadership, and good leaders work to help bring that to their organization. 

11. Work as a team.

It may seem cliche, but teamwork is key to a successful work environment. When individuals feel that they are competing, that it is every-person-for-themselves, or that they aren’t safe on a team, productivity drastically decreases. Good leaders work to help everyone get on the same page toward a common goal. They understand that in order for teams to be successful, everyone has to be willing to come together and make it happen. They clearly communicate goals, utilize team building to help everyone develop relationships and have a good time together, and then create opportunities for collaboration within their work. 

If you’re studying to become a business leader, it’s important to understand how your principles will impact your leadership. Every industry needs leaders, and it’s extremely valuable to enhance your skillset with a degree, and prepare your principles and behaviors so that you can be successful. 

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