Great leaders use a variety of tools to maximize their impact as leaders. Developing a leadership philosophy can be a helpful practice for establishing a leadership framework. Leadership philosophies often vary depending on the leader's goals and overall approach to leadership.
In this article, we explain what a leadership philosophy is, clarify why they are important, provide a list of examples and share tips for writing your own.
Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles
What is a leadership philosophy?
A leadership philosophy is a structured approach to leading others. Leaders often write philosophies as a guiding statement for reference while leading a team. Generally, leadership philosophies include the following components:
- Guiding principles
The structure of a leadership philosophy can vary greatly depending on the goals and needs of the leader. Some statements are as short as a sentence while others are a page or more in length. As they are highly personalized documents, any length or structure is fine for a leadership philosophy.
Why review leadership philosophy examples?
Leaders can benefit from reviewing leadership philosophy examples to see what elements they would like to include in their own philosophy and which elements they can do without. Additionally, reviewing examples of leaders in their industry or leaders who inspire them can help leaders adjust their philosophies to better emulate those they admire.
List of leadership philosophy examples
Leadership philosophies hinge on the type of leadership the writer uses. Democratic leadership, for example, yields a different framework and philosophy for the practitioner than autocratic leadership. Use these leadership philosophy examples, organized by leadership type, to help define your own leadership philosophy:
- Democratic leadership philosophy
- Autocratic leadership philosophy
- Laissez-faire leadership philosophy
- Strategic leadership philosophy
- Transformational leadership philosophy
- Transactional leadership philosophy
Democratic leadership philosophy
Democratic leadership depends on the whole team to make decisions. While the leader may depart from the team's input occasionally, they almost always ask for and consider the thoughts and opinions of everyone involved.
Here is an example of a democratic leadership philosophy:
I believe everyone should participate in the process. I intend to share responsibility with my team. I will respect my team, listen to their ideas and inspire them when needed. I will behave with empathy, thoughtfulness and kindness.
Autocratic leadership philosophy
Autocratic leadership situates all the decision and implementation power on the leader. The team is there to execute the leader's practices and processes, and the leader does not consult them during the decision-making process.
Here is an example of an autocratic leadership philosophy:
I believe I am best suited to make decisions and lead the team. I intend to inspire and lead through action. I will provide my team with instruction and action to meet the needs of the company. I will behave with decisiveness, authority and power.
Laissez-faire leadership philosophy
Laissez-faire leadership gives equal power to the team and the leader. In fact, the leader will often give little guidance to their team and will instead allow them to work how and when the team feels they need to. Instead, the leader focuses on high-level matters rather than managing the day-to-day operations of their team.
Here is an example of a laissez-faire leadership philosophy:
I believe my team knows what's best. I intend to trust them to make excellent decisions and meet their own needs. I will give guidance if it's asked for, but otherwise, I will focus my attention on high-level projects. I will behave with honesty and trust.
Strategic leadership philosophy
Strategic leadership divides the leader's focus between high-level operations and team oversight. Strategic leaders maintain individual responsibility for executive operations, but they still offer guidance and structure for their team.
Here is an example of a strategic leadership philosophy:
I believe everyone on the team has a specific duty. I intend to maximize the work product of everyone on the team. I will provide guidance while also managing high-level company needs. I will behave with integrity, honesty and decisiveness.
Transformational leadership philosophy
Transformational leadership focuses on constantly evolving and establishing new benchmarks and goals. Leaders devote their time to establishing goals and pathways to success for their team. The transformational leader spends their time developing new practices and processes to improve the overall work product.
Here is an example of a transformational leadership philosophy:
I believe constant change is the only pathway forward. I intend to motivate my team through goal-setting and overcoming challenges. I will provide guidance and inspiration to improve the team's performance constantly. I will behave with charisma, drive and passion.
Transactional leadership philosophy
Transactional leadership depends on a series of incentives to motivate employees to reach goals. Leaders establish pre-determined prizes or rewards if their team meets a goal and then gives them the space to complete the project.
Here is an example of a transactional leadership philosophy:
I believe my team will respond to incentives. I intend to motivate my team with a set reward and then let them work on their own. I will offer guidance if the team needs it, but I trust them to complete the work as they see fit. I will behave with trust and honesty.
Tips for writing a leadership philosophy
Use these tips to help craft your own personal leadership philosophy:
Know your leadership style
Make sure you know how you intend to lead your team. Consistency is key as a leader, so know if you want team input or intend to work independently so that your team knows what to expect from you.
Identify role models
See what the leaders you look up to identify as values in their leadership philosophies. Consider using a few of their goals, methods or processes in your leadership philosophy.
Determine your goals
Establish your goals as a leader before writing your leadership philosophy so that all of your action items will tie directly to your success.
Reflect on your past
Consider your leadership successes in the past as well as leadership practices you respect from other leaders. Use that information to help form your own leadership practice.
Ask yourself questions about what you believe in and what to expect from your team to help establish your leadership framework.
Talk with your team
Ask your team for input. Consider an anonymous survey asking what they like about your leadership style and what you could improve to help you shape a successful philosophy.
Make it actionable
Make sure your philosophy will help guide your daily actions and decision-making. Keep the language clear and actionable.