Recently, I was asked to present my personal leadership philosophy and the first thing I did was to google “leadership philosophy”. I’ve never had a formal philosophy or knew what one looked like so this exercise took me on an unexpected leadership journey.
Unknowingly, I had outlined a personal leadership philosophy a year earlier when I changed my LinkedIn profile descriptions upside down to talk about what I value and what matters to me. I did so because I wanted to be more transparent with my employees, peers, friends and colleagues. I believed that this would result in others being able to predict how I think instead of guessing how I think. Junto Institute founder, Raman Chadha, helped me realize that this was my personal leadership philosophy:
Earlier this year, we embarked on a journey to develop a company leadership model at cleverbridge. We were facing the challenge of trying to improve employee retention and we believe the following statement:
Employees don’t quit their companies, they quit their bosses
Clearly, managers have a substantial influence on employee retention so we set out to create a leadership philosophy that aligns mangers on what is expected of them by leadership and their own direct reports. Not a simple task for a 300 person global company where cultural differences matter, but an important restoration project.
Out of the workshop emerged what we call an empowering leadership style that consists of three steps: set direction, support planning and guide progress. A simple way to think about this is that a leader sets the transparent goal (what is success) then supports the team’s planning on how to achieve the goal (what are steps and who owns what) then guides the progress of the team’s efforts to reach the goal (trust, but verify).
It all sounds so easy, but the real magic comes through the actions of the leader: communicate clearly (listen actively), encourage performance (recognize positive performance) and coach actively (focus on development and feedback).
I believe the common thread between the cleverbridge leadership model and my personal philosophy is the goal to be transparent in order to streamline the complexity of human interaction. Neither my personal nor the cleverbridge philosophies are rocket surgery, but they are authentic, honest and thoughtful. And since we can’t be all things to all people, shouldn’t we do fewer things better?
Having gone through this exercise this year, I believe that we are in the middle of a societal shift in how organizations think about leadership. The incumbent top-down mentality of telling people what to do is rapidly being replaced by a bottom-up empowered leadership model. I believe that this is being driven by easy access to information through online reviews, googling it and social media. I’m glad that I struggled through this exercise because awareness of the macro view should help me be the second coming of Bill Lumbergh. Or Not.