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Some years ago the US Navy did a study of high-performing organizations, looking for traits they could replicate elsewhere. One thing they found is that the leaders of these teams made their expectations clear. The Navy institutionalized the idea, tasking commanders to write and share a leadership philsophy. The tool is now widely used in other military services and throughout the business community.

Because these are personal leadership philosophies, they vary with the individual; however, they tend to share some common denominators. (Bear in mind that these are not about the business goals, but about how team members will interact.) I and my colleagues at Academy Leadership have helped thousands of leaders write these statements, and here’s what they share almost universally, and what your team wants to hear from you:

  1. Here’s what I believe about leadership and my job
  2. Here’s what I expect from you
  3. Here’s what you can expect from me
  4. These things will attract negative attention

The best leadership philosophies are written clearly and in the writer’s voice, meaning it sounds like something that person would say in face-to-face conversation.

A leader who writes and shares a personal leadership philosophy reaps a number of benefits:

  • You gain clarity in your own thinking. One young leader told me, “Boy, you think you know what you think about leadership until you have to write it down for someone else.”
  • People don’t have to guess what you want. You remove a great deal of stress this way.
  • Your team will hold you accountable. If you say you’re all about developing the team, or removing bureaucratic obstacles, or seeking feedback, people want you to follow through.
  • But the biggest benefit is that you begin a conversation around leadership. It’s suddenly OK to talk about how you can improve communication or feedback or consensus decision-making. You create a continuous improvement mindset that is as important in leadership as it is in manufacturing.

Consider giving yourself and your team this gift. Start by looking at these free samples and find help on how to write a personal leadership philosophy.

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