PEOPLE TALK ABOUT having “principles”, but few seem to be guided by their principles consistently, because it’s just too easy to make exceptions. The thing is, if you don’t follow your principles in every case, they’re not principles.
Understood and accepted as non-violable, your principles become your “rock” – a steadfast guide to action even when circumstances are difficult, conflicting, or hard to discern. Good leaders, and good people, understand this; they know that sticking to the right principles is indispensable to success, and therefore also to happiness.
Here’s four principles that all good leaders, (and good people, for that matter,) stick to.
#1 My Judgement Rules
Good leaders (and good people) know that they are always fully accountable for what they do, so they never relinquish judgement to others. Sure, they listen, take advice, learn from others, and consult. What they don’t do, however, is take another’s word, opinion, dictate, or judgement as given. Never. To put it another way: “The buck stops here, so you better @#$%-well know the real buck inside and out”.
Example: Steve Jobs in any number or situations springs to mind.
#2 Good Relationships Depend on Justice
Good leaders (and good people) understand that only relationships based on justice will thrive. To deal with people justly means to always and only give (and accept) what is deserved. To withhold praise and reward from those who add value is just as bad as bestowing the same on those who do not, or on those who, even worse, destroy value.
The latter is called “spoiling”, and as Rand once pointed out, there’s no quicker and surer way to destroy a human soul than to give it more than it deserves. Conversely, withhold reward from those who’ve rightly earned it, and they’ll not be around for long. They’ll go where their talent is recognized and valued, and righty so.
Example: The “brain drain” from any number of politically stifling (and unjust) nations to the freer countries in “The West”.
And while we’re on the subject, let’s dispel a couple of widely held (and very unjust) bromides (anti-principles, if you will): “Unconditional Love” and “Universal Forgiveness“.
Good leaders (and good people) understand that those who demand “unconditional love” are asking you to commit fraud. Love is simply one end of the scale that measures how you value something or someone (hate → dislike → ambivalence → like → love). Your emotional response to anything or anyone needs to be just, that is, needs to be in keeping with how much you value (or disvalue) the thing or person. To give love “unconditionally”, is to disregard justice. Do so at your own peril.
Forgiveness has it’s place, of course, but also needs to be just. The guilty must earn forgiveness. How? Three things: They must show sincere contrition (simply saying “sorry” is not enough), they need to make good on the damage they did, and they should make a binding commitment to doing better from now on. Forgiving someone, “just because”, is unfair on, and bad for, both of you.
Now, back to organizational leadership…
Organizations, by definition, rely on relationships, so its critical that justice is the principle that drives the relationships. So many organizations founder because dysfunctional (unjust) relationships tie them in knots. Jealousy, envy, favoritism, obsequiousness, sociopathy, and a host of other organization ills thrive because justice is absent. Incompetents with connections wield power, talent languishes or leaves, obsequious sycophants who look good in a suit keep the corner offices warm, and fraudsters with acting skills line their pockets. Absent justice, relationships are based on all manner of pretense. In that kind of culture, all sorts of crap can grow.
Example: Too many to mention. How about Enron? Bear Stearns? Penn State?
#3 Learning Never Stops and Comes From Anywhere and Everywhere
With this principle firmly understood and integrated, you’re open to expanding your horizons every day, every hour, every minute.
Yet, how many managers, bosses, parents, or acquaintances do you know who seem to think that they know everything already? Ugh, the dreaded “know it all”….deal with that kind as little as you can, they’re a vexation to your soul!
Example? I bet you have a dozen such people in your life. Name one.
#4 Be Passionate
Whatever you do, give it 100% of your attention and effort. If you can’t, or worse, won’t, don’t do it.
Passion does not mean “loving” what you do. It means “valuing” what you do. Hopefully, most of the time it is about love and enjoyment, but don’t forget that some things that are not fun still need 100% or your focus and your best effort; because they’re worth it. George Washington no doubt hated that winter at Valley Forge, but his passion for the fledgling America held strong, guiding him through times and circumstances that would have driven a non-principled, dispassionate man to give up.
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Principles are not for “now and then”. And they are not just for titled-leaders. It is not a coincidence that the fundamental principles that make for good organizational leaders also make for good human beings. That’s why Method Leadership is based on them, and why they’re on our masthead.
Think. Engage. Learn. Value.
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