Principled Leadership

Working as a psychologist/business consultant I am continually fascinated by leaders and the actions of leadership. Leadership makes all the difference in an organization; great companies are led by great leaders.

When I review the literature and talk to leaders, I generally find leadership defined as a list of things to do and ways to be. These lists are usually derived from the intuition and experience of a wise person, or from leadership research. Surely there must be some underlying framework from which leadership principles can be derived.

As Lee Hersch and I wrote The People Side of Business, it became clear to us that leadership activities can be derived from an understanding of the basic needs of people. When you understand what people need in the work environment you can formulate what is needed to lead them. Great leadership is about behaving in a way that takes into account how people are psychologically constructed and what they need to survive and thrive.

From our point of view the six principles we have outlined form a framework for leadership. The framework makes people leadership a coherent set of activities and ways of being. Let me explain.

1. If you understand that the brain works from the bottom up, and that people are driven by irrational internal forces, you will come to see that the foundation for leadership is acceptance. Acceptance is the critical building block for trust and for people being willing to utilize your leadership.

2. When you believe that humans need nurturance to feel safe and function at their best, as a leader you will provide nurturance to your employees. You will convey that you care for each of them as a person and as an essential part of the organization.

3. Realizing that humans see their relationships through the lens of family experience, you will build a family-like culture in your work environment. It will encourage you to build teams and support mutuality throughout the organization.

4. Since people want to learn and grow, and since their development is great for the business, you will encourage the growth and development of everyone. You will foster autonomy in your employees and provide opportunities for advancement.

5. Because people need structure to shape and motivate their behavior, you will make sure each person knows their roles and job expectations. You will insist that everyone knows where the organization is headed. You will share the rewards (and consequences) of their performance.

6. Given that humans are individually different, you will welcome diversity of ideas and of people. Each person can find a unique way to contribute to the organization.

In my next posts I will discuss leadership based on the six principles.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

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