If vision is about what you are going to accomplish then philosophy is about how that will look and how it will be done. All of us will apply a leadership philosophy of some sort but few of us will do so knowingly or with intent.
That is not to say it won’t happen but rather that it happens by accident and often haphazardly. Leadership philosophies are prone to trends like many other things in the realm of social interaction and most leaders (70% according to Gallup) report they develop an approach through trial and error.
What this means is that if you manage to get through the first year of your leadership role you just may survive. But there are costs; talented and high performing operators get thrust into front line leadership roles and struggle with the new skills and many fail. That failure is not just theirs alone as well over 60% of workers cite poor leadership as the chief reason for leaving a company. So we not only lose a good potential leader we lose staff. For example, an average sized company of say 150 employees with an 11% turnover rate loses 16 people per year. Cost to replace each employee is conservatively around 50% of annual salary and let’s assume average salaries of around $50,000. What that means is that poor leadership at the front line costs this company around $412,000 per year!
The good news is that companies are starting to realize that leadership development is not just good for the resume but is in fact an essential element of driving performance and competitiveness. So what role does philosophy play in good leadership? It should provide you with a few key points of direction – your focus, a timeline to achieve that focus, how your team contributes to the accomplishment of that focus, how you know that’s been achieved and how do you improve in the achievement of that focus?
I will tell you a secret, within that set of parameters there are literally dozens of approaches that can be taken, pick one and run with it! Any approach that you “knowingly” apply is far superior to no approach or what I call “accidental, run and gun leadership.” The research on this is pretty compelling in that a leader is 80% more likely to succeed through the application of a structured approach to achieving team or company goals. (Prosci)
In my experience leaders deal with this one of two ways; either they don’t have a defined philosophy or methodology in place or they overthink the one they have and keep changing it to adjust to the current crisis. The bottom line with a leadership philosophy is this, pick one that works for you, communicate it vigorously to your team and stick to it. This is one absolute of leadership you can literally take to the bank.