For those in highly visible leadership positions, a leadership philosophy is a powerful tool. It is your perspective on what you believe in that makes a leader in character. Much more than a list of desirable leadership attributes, a leadership philosophy helps subordinates better understand their leader. In short, a leadership philosophy speaks to the workforce and tells people who is the chief as opposed to other guidance documents which set out what the chef wants. Insightful leaders can use a well-crafted leadership philosophy as a tool to implement and advance their organizational goals and objectives. Most importantly, a leadership philosophy should set expectations for leading with character.
It took me many years to fully mature my thoughts on leadership. Developing a leadership philosophy is an iterative process. It starts at the entry level when students or new workers develop as leaders. As the Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, I enjoyed listening to the cadets present their emerging leadership philosophies in the classroom. Some seemed bold and confident, while others wavered with uncertainty. They all shared the same enthusiasm for putting their leadership philosophy into practice. As they grow and develop as leaders of character, cadets’ leadership philosophies evolve to reflect the maturity and wisdom derived from their rich leadership development experiences.
My leadership philosophy is based on the principle of committed leadership. It means connecting with your employees by going out and getting ready to meet them right where they are in the workplace. Engaged leadership means serving your employees, ensuring that they are fully capable and motivated to perform their tasks. It means understanding your employees to help them reach their full potential. I have exercised committed leadership by mentoring subordinates to further their development as leaders of character. To be a good mentor to young people, like cadets, I needed to understand what mattered to them.
Meet them where they are
One day at the Academy, while I was walking, I met a mother who was visiting. Renee had a child in Preparatory School at the Naval Academy in Newport, Rhode Island, but was curious about the Coast Guard Academy. We had a lot in common in addition to our shared passion for youth development. Renee was also a trailblazer, a professional woman of color who had worked for years in the information technology industry. I was immediately drawn to his energy, enthusiasm and confidence. I asked her what she thought of how the Coast Guard Academy could reach and attract potential cadets from a larger segment of society. She wisely advised me: “Sandy, the secret to inspiring young people is to meet them where they are.
Using situational awareness to find out what interests young people and then finding a way to translate their interest in Coast Guard missions is what it means to meet them where they are. For example, most young people are constantly connected to their mobile devices and see the world through the lens of this technology. They may be delighted to know more about the cockpit of a Coast Guard aircraft, the bridge of a Coast Guard vessel or a Coast Guard command center, which are equipped with the latest technology. more advanced. They might be interested to learn that Coast Guard missions are carried out in a collaborative environment by cohesive teams.
Showing young people how the Coast Guard gives them the power to use technology, like their smartphones, to serve a purpose bigger than themselves is powerful. They can imagine working as part of a skilled team to save lives, clean up the environment, enforce laws and protect critical infrastructure. Helping them visualize the possibilities could motivate them to enlist in the Coast Guard or apply to the Coast Guard Academy.
My new understanding of situational awareness by meeting people where they are has served me well in learning to understand and mentor entry-level workers. I knew I couldn’t expect to have the same demeanor and decision making from a newbie student or worker that I expected from myself. Rather than expressing my disappointment when young people inevitably made mistakes and bad decisions, I reminded myself to reach out and try to understand them better. In doing so, I could guide them in their progression to the next level of their potential.
Engaged leadership – meeting people where they are – consists of these three enduring principles applicable at all levels of an organization. I’ll cover each of these principles over the next three weeks:
- Build trust and earn respect
- Believe in yourself and in others
- Show moral courage
Look in the mirror. What is your leadership philosophy?
Please join me again next week to learn more about Leading with Character.
(Visited 4 times, 4 visits today)