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You don’t have to be Plato or Socrates to be a philosopher, and if you consider yourself some kind of leader but don’t have a leadership philosophy (or don’t think you have one), it’s time to fix that.

What is a leadership philosophy? It is a set of beliefs and principles that you use to guide your organization as its leader. You probably have one without realizing it, but if you don’t know it, you can figure it out by asking yourself some questions and meditating on the answers- it’s not something that can or should be rushed either, so take some time. A philosophy is not something you create once, and then you’re done- it’s something that you should eternally wrestle with and be willing to change just as you and your organization change over time. It’s also something that can be defined. If someone in a job interview asks you what your leadership philosophy is, you don’t want to flounder on the answer.

Who are your role models?

Start by asking yourself what leaders you admire and what principles you have. Do your actions as a leader support these principles? Are they actions your role models would take? Starting with an example set by someone else is a great way to determine what kind of leader you want to be. 


What do I disapprove of and why?

In addition to looking for examples of leaders you admire, you should also look at leaders you don’t like. Examine what qualities they have and make you dislike them. Then, take a good look at yourself to determine if you have any of those qualities. If you do, it’s time to get rid of them! Part of being the leader you want to be is figuring out what kind of leader you don’t want to be.


Where will you be in five years?

This age-old question is in nearly every job interview, and it’s an excellent question to ask yourself when determining your leadership philosophy. Deciding what kind of leader you want to be five years from now is just as important as deciding what type of leader you want to be now. Try to emulate the qualities of the future you. Like the saying goes, dress for the job you want, not the one you have.


A paradigm shift

Change can be scary, but it should also be embraced, as this article by Dr. Dale Benson of Physician Leaders argues. In addition to changing your leadership philosophy, you must be willing to change the paradigm of your organization. If you don’t know what a paradigm is, think of it as how your organization thinks about things. Your organization’s paradigm must constantly change to survive in the modern age, and the organization’s leader must motivate the people they lead to shift with the changing paradigm. Your leadership philosophy will help guide you in this transitional period, just as you help guide your organization.