The Seven Principles of Thinking Like a Leader

Servant Leadership

This leadership guide uses seven principles of thinking like a leader as a foundation for building leadership skills.

1. Keep a focus on the mission and higher intent

Never lose sight of the mission, purpose, and results you need to achieve. Due to the complexity of their duties, leaders are often drawn toward unusual and critical events that force them in different directions. While these difficulties often need to be attended to, don't lose sight of the higher intent of the organization.

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2. Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Almost anyone can achieve easy goals, but do you really believe that is what your competitors are aiming for? It's tempting to simplify your competition by treating them as rigid or simply reactive. Good leaders use their visioning skills to set BHAGs with a thorough understanding of how to reach them... not with reckless abandon.

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3. Coach your followers

There are a few things that you need to keep a pulse on because they can have real damaging effects on your organization, but the vast majority of objectives and details can be handled by your followers. Yes, they will make mistakes. Bad leaders chew their buttocks off; good leaders know that mistakes provide one of the most valued learning opportunities there is.

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4. Combat complexity and change with learning

Not only must you coach your followers, you must also change the culture to a mindset of a learning organization. You cannot be the only coach — the entire organization needs to know the skills, have the technologies, and be in climates that allow people to help develop others through both formal and informal experiences.

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5. Set the example: Be, Know, Do

You are a role model of the organization who sets the standard by being a person of good character, knowing your job, and doing all that matters.

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6. Flatten the organization by replacing hierarchies with networks

While it might be comforting to think that information should flow smoothly up to you, and in return, you reply with commands, the world is simply too complex and moving too fast.

Vertical leadership are organizations where leaders are in a formal positions of power at the top of the hierarchy and whose commands typically run down the hierarchy, while information flows up it. In simple environments, this can work quite well.

However, if we view leadership as being a total system, rather than lying in individual power, then we have horizontal or flat leadership that are networks of people where information and commands flow in all directions so that change and complexity are rapidly mastered.

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7. Create and sustain diversity and inclusion

Having biases against people who are different greatly hinders your ability to gain new insights. Diversity is about empowering people. It makes an organization effective by capitalizing on all of the strengths of each employee. It is not EEO or Affirmative Action — these are laws and policies. Diversity is understanding, valuing, and using the differences in every person. Mastering diversity leads to inclusion where all people feel they are highly valued for their uniqueness. In turn, the organization benefits from the synergistic effects of a cohesive team who bring an array of experiences to the table.

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Next Steps

Next chapter: Concepts of Leadership

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