The Impact of Beliefs on Leadership

This autumn I am again providing some services as a coach for university students who have been selected for a special leadership development program. These young people will be among tomorrow’s leaders. They are brilliant, thoughtful, and have  already demonstrated extraordinary leadership skills. They receive three core assignments in their program. The first is to define a personal statement of purpose. The second is to create a personal plan including learning goals. The third is to develop their personal philosophy of leadership. These assignments are challenging, requiring considerable thought and discernment. Each student receives coaching help to accomplish these tasks. They are currently doing their assignment on the philosophy of leadership and every one that I have met with, after putting considerable thought into their answers, found themselves struggling. They realize that they have many untested assumptions.

I shared with the students that when coaching even senior leaders, they also have the same struggles. They unearth inconsistencies in their assumptions about leadership. Sometimes they laugh in the midst of their struggle, in some disbelief that they have engaged in leadership for years without taking the time for thinking through their philosophy of leadership.

The beliefs you have about leadership make up your philosophy of leadership. Because personal and professional leadership cannot be separated, it is very useful to make a regular habit of checking in on your beliefs about leadership and to ascertaining for yourself what your philosophy of leadership is.

When your beliefs about leadership are negative, whether consciously or subconsciously, it can result in failing to achieve your goals, poor decision making (or not making important decisions) and abdicating the leadership of your life and your work to someone else.  These beliefs might be things like:

  • Leadership = being bossy
  • Leadership = misuse of power
  • Leadership is hard
  • Leaders are out of touch with reality

When your beliefs about leadership are positive and supportive of nourishing leadership in yourself and others, it becomes easier to achieve your goals, you can more easily see the possibilities for the future and can set the course to get there, you understand that you are in charge of your life and your work and naturally draw people to you who are claiming responsibility for their lives too.  These beliefs might be things like:

  • Strong and effective leadership sets everyone up for success
  • Leadership is joyful
  • Everyone has leadership ability
  • Leadership makes a useful and positive difference

What are your beliefs about leadership?  Do they help or hinder you in stepping fully into your leadership capacity?