What sort of a leader are you? Have you thought deeply about what leadership means? My guess is that you have, or you would not have found your way here. I have been in the corporate and executive space for over 20 years. I have run global teams and developed award-winning global programs. This has led me to be quite opinionated on what leadership principles will work in tomorrow’s world.

Check out my LinkedIn here to learn more about me.

Great leaders are few and far between. They follow a set of leadership principles that they have developed over a lifetime. When you have one, you never forget. Try to remember the best leader you have ever had. I bet you can remember how they made you feel on an emotional level. They would have had a clear vision you could buy into, a common goal. The Principles of Leadership can take you from a good leader to a great leader, even an inspiring leader.

So let’s discover new possibilities and the specific skills you need on an intellectual level so you can inspire on an emotional one. You may be aware of Amazon’s leadership principles. These just touch the surface.

Key Takeaways

  • Leadership principles are key to successful decision-making and action-taking.
  • Embrace accountability, cultivate emotional intelligence, foster collaboration & prioritize ethical decision-making for effective leadership.
  • Develop cultural intelligence for a thriving culture.
  • Implementing and assessing current practices helps create an environment of motivation that leads to success in a changing business landscape.
Leadership principles are the key to leading people. A rainbow of colors and different emotions
Leadership principles are the key to leading people.

Understanding Leadership Principles

I am sure you could Google leadership, and it will give you a laundry list of items. For me, it boils down to a common theme – be kind.

Always assume the best and always show care and kindness.

The difference between a manager and a leader is how you inspire your team. Remember, great leaders work for their teams, not the other way around.

Use these principles as guides and as a compass. You will need to make these your own – one of the greatest principles is being authentic. You will need good instincts and emotional intelligence to master these.

Remember – the fact that you are here tells me that you are already well on your way to being a great leader.

So, what are they?

1. Trust is everything.2. Be accountable.
3. Build emotional intelligence.4. Encourage collaboration.
5. Learn cultural intelligence.6. Have a growth mindset.
7. Ethical decision making.8. Active listening.
9. Goal setting.10. Only give constructive feedback.
11. Build resilience through mindfulness.12. Assess your current leadership principles.
13. Build your leadership philosophy.14. Continuous improvement.
15. Get rid of distractions.

A table listing the 15 Leadership Principles discussed in the article

The trick is to balance the intellectual and emotional awareness of the team members. While they are part of a whole team, each has their own specific needs.

Defining Leadership Principles

Look at these how you wish, a guide, a rule, or a belief. No matter what your leadership style is, apply these to it for the best outcome. I have written a lot about leadership – want to know what kind of leader you are. Check out this article I wrote on LinkedIn Dynamics of Leadership Styles in Today’s Corporate Culture.

If you follow me on LinkedIn, you will know that I am passionate about this topic. To be a great leader, you must have the right temperament. This blog will cover what Google will tell you. It will add a bit of my spice and my beliefs.

I have formed strong opinions on great leadership and its requirements. Beyond the usual metrics of profits, my focus lies elsewhere; it lies with you and your needs as a person. My conviction is that a high-performing company culture naturally leads to increased profits.

Simon’s Hot Take

I have been around some of the world’s most effective and successful leaders. I have observed three buckets that everything falls out of.

Leadership principles all ladder up to these.


The most effective leaders prioritize people, not just profits. They have strategies that weave empathy, understanding, and shared growth into every decision.


The most successful leaders have intimate rituals and habits that help them find their inner equilibrium. These personal practices spark creativity, resilience, and the courage to lead.

Life/Distraction Management

The overlooked components that orchestrate a leader’s life – how they manage distractions, be productive, stay healthy, and curate their life to free up time.

Once you examine these three components of leadership and life, you will start to master your life. The principles of leadership in this blog are the foundational blocks of these components and your being a successful leader.

Key Leadership Principles for Great Leaders

So let’s crack in. Effective leadership requires a combination of key principles that inspire and motivate teams.

These principles include:

  • Clear communication: This enables you to share your vision and connect with your team.
  • Strong interpersonal skills: These allow you to establish strong relationships and wield influence over those around you.
  • Vulnerability: Leaders who are open and vulnerable create an environment of trust and authenticity.
  • Emotional intelligence: This helps you understand and manage your own emotions, as well as empathize with and understand the emotions of others.
  • Lead yourself first: How can you lead others if you cannot lead yourself first? Know thyself.

Your job is to inspire your team to follow you and give them something to work for beyond a paycheck.

By embodying these principles, effective leaders, also known as the best leaders and successful leaders, can effectively lead and inspire their teams, nurturing future leaders in the process.

Being vulnerable and open about your emotions and challenges can foster open communication, which is essential. By taking responsibility for mistakes and demonstrating accountability, you can build trust and create a supportive work environment where your employees feel valued and encouraged to reach their full potential.

1 – Trust is Everything

There is nothing more important than trust. If you have this, you are most of the way there.

I am a fanboy of Simon Sinek. I love this quote of his.

A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other.

Simon Sinek

If your team trusts you, then they will follow you. If they do not, they will only give you what is required, and you may be the last to know about potential mistakes due to fear.

Everything else in this list will help in building trust.

2 – Embrace Accountability

Take responsibility for your actions and decisions. Demonstrate accountability to your team and organization. Embracing accountability involves being aware of your behaviors and attitudes and how they impact your capacity to lead.

By owning up to your actions and decisions, you can foster a culture of trust and transparency, which is crucial for maintaining strong relationships within the organization. This also helps to motivate employees, as they feel more confident in their leader’s ability to guide them toward success.

It also makes you human and vulnerable – this will generate more goodwill than you can imagine. It will not make you look weak; on the contrary. A leader who can embrace their mistakes makes them strong and will encourage your team to share more with you.

3 – Build Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is crucial for understanding and managing emotions, both in yourself and in others. It helps you communicate and work together more effectively, resulting in better team performance and overall success.

You can hone your emotional intelligence by:

  • Engaging in active listening.
  • Setting achievable objectives.
  • Giving helpful feedback.
  • Taking ownership of your actions.

Cultivating emotional intelligence enables you to:

  • Build strong relationships with team members.
  • Understand their needs and concerns.
  • Foster a supportive work environment.
  • Make better decisions.
  • Navigate challenging situations with grace and empathy.

Do not underestimate this one. Miss this one, and everything else is moot.

4 – Encourage Collaboration

Collaboration inspires innovation, creativity, and a sense of shared purpose. Collaboration in leadership involves working with people from different teams and departments to reach a shared goal, which can boost employee engagement and productivity. Leaders who appreciate the value of collaboration can cultivate a collaborative working environment and encourage greater sharing.

5 – Develop Cultural Intelligence

This is one I have added to the list. There is no sense in encouraging collaboration if you do not have cultural intelligence.

This one gets a little tricky and branches into diversity, equity, and inclusion. Your organizational culture is a direct reflection of how good you are at this.

A YouTube clip of Simon Court talking about how he thinks about organizational culture.

Cultural Intelligence is the ability to understand and interpret the ambiguous gestures and body language of others on your team.

This one can be hard to understand; an example is when you have a team of people from many cultures, it can sometimes cause friction. A local example; some in California might find New Yorkers abrupt or even rude. Conversely, New Yorkers might find Californians lazy and distracted.

Cultural intelligence gives you the toolkit to appreciate that neither is true. Now imagine this across a team with cultures from around the world.

6 – Foster a Growth Mindset

No point in reading all of this if you do not have a growth mindset. Be a student of life and look at everything as an opportunity to learn.

Continuous learning and development are essential for you to stay informed, adapt to change, and improve your leadership skills.

Promote continuous learning by offering employees opportunities to gain new skills, motivating them to tackle fresh challenges, and cultivating a culture of learning and development.

The perks of encouraging ongoing learning include heightened employee engagement, heightened job satisfaction, and heightened productivity. By fostering continuous learning, you can equip your team with the skills and knowledge needed to ensure the organization’s long-term success.

Giving yourself and everyone the chance for self-improvement will pay dividends.

7 – Prioritize Ethical Decision-Making

If you know me, you would have read that and gone, “well, duh.”

Ethical decision-making is, at its core, human-centered and is crucial for maintaining trust and integrity within your organization, ensuring long-term success.

It involves:

  • Putting transparency, responsibility, empathy, honesty, integrity, and fairness at the forefront
  • Aligning ethical values acro.ss the organization. This is no longer a nice to have; it is expected.
  • Making effective ethical decisions to build a reputation for ethical behavior.
  • Motivating team members to reach their goals.

By prioritizing ethical decision-making, leaders can create an environment where:

  • Trust, honesty, and integrity are valued.
  • A positive reputation for the organization is maintained.
  • Employees are encouraged to act ethically.
  • The overall success of the business is promoted.

Exceptional talent now expects to work for an organization that matches their beliefs and causes. No more fence-sitting, sorry. Put your stake in the ground and stand by it.

8 – Practice Active Listening

I am not going to bang on about this one for long. We have all gone through countless hours of training on active listening, I am sure. We know it is essential for effective leadership, as it allows leaders to:

  • Understand their team’s needs, concerns, and ideas
  • Build strong relationships with team members
  • Foster a supportive work environment where employees feel valued and heard.

By practicing active listening, leaders can:

  • Gain valuable insights into the thoughts and feelings of their team members.
  • Make better decisions and address any issues or concerns.
  • Improve team performance.
  • Increase employee satisfaction.
  • Achieve overall success for the organization.

9 – Set Realistic Goals

Your entire company needs to have clear and achievable goals. Good leadership is lighting the path for your teams and showing them the way. It is from the front and not driving from behind.

Many leaders think goal setting is about dictation – setting KPI’s and expecting results. Work with your teams and make them achievable and measurable.

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are big across many industries, especially tech. Otherwise, make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).

By setting realistic goals, teams have a clear direction and a sense of accomplishment when those goals are achieved. This not only boosts employee morale but also contributes to the overall success and growth of the organization.

10 – Provide Constructive Feedback

This is two-sided: How do you give feedback, and how do you receive it? In my organization now, we are doing training on this to build trust. This is across all levels, not only leaders.

Ineffective leaders are blunt and won’t admit mistakes. Don’t be an ineffective leader.

Providing constructive feedback helps team members develop and improve, leading to better performance and ultimately benefiting the organization. Constructive feedback should:

  • Be precise.
  • Be given at the right time – not necessarily in the moment.
  • Include clear steps to take.
  • Be about the action or performance, not the individual.
  • Always be delivered in a respectful and professional manner.
  • Don’t project your own insecurities on others.

By offering constructive feedback, leaders can:

  • Help team members recognize their talents and areas for improvement.
  • Help them hone their skills.
  • Lead to increased employee engagement, job satisfaction, and improved performance.
  • Contribute to the organization’s overall success.

When receiving feedback:

  • Try not to take it personally.
  • Take it away and reflect upon it.
  • Look at it as an opportunity for growth.

11 – Develop Resilience (Be Mindful)

This is another one I am adjusting. Developing resilience is not something you can just do. It can take years of continual work.

Resilience is the ability to:

  • Navigate challenges and setbacks.
  • Inspire teams to persevere and adapt.
  • Be open to changing environments – in fact, embrace change.
  • Adjust your approach to tackle new situations and challenges effectively.
  • Practice mindfulness.

To gain resilience, spend time getting to know yourself. Identify the patterns and behaviors you have built over a lifetime. When you react a certain way, ask yourself why and then identify that trigger for next time.

This will be a whole topic in a later blog.

12 – Assessing Your Current Leadership Practices

This is a leadership principle in its own right.

Does your leadership team practice these? Do they talk about them? Maybe they do some and not others?

Identify areas for improvement and potential for growth. To assess current leadership practices, gather data, analyze it, and come up with an action plan. Evaluating current leadership practices can bring several benefits, such as improved decision-making, increased efficiency, and better team performance.

This assessment allows you to:

  • Identify gaps in your current practices.
  • Develop strategies to address these areas.
  • Enhance your leadership skills.
  • Better serve your team and organization.

13 – Developing a Personal Leadership Philosophy

Identify what your beliefs, principles, and sentiments are that guide your actions and decisions. This will guide you to your leadership style.

Having a personal leadership philosophy is key to ensuring that your actions and decisions are in line with your core values and beliefs, providing consistency in your leadership approach.

Be open to new ideas and be a good listener to look for the hidden intent behind your team’s behavior. They will be telling you what is and is not working, even if not directly.

Check out Dynamics of Leadership Styles in Today’s Corporate Culture to understand your leadership philosophy and style. There is a test you can take.

14 – Continuous Improvement and Adaptation

Drop an ego you have and be a constant learner. Have the commitment to be agile and share your vision.

Continuous improvement and adaptation are essential, as organizations and teams are always changing and evolving. Stay on top of new situations and challenges in order to remain effective. This can involve adapting to new technologies, understanding customer needs, and staying competitive in the industry.

15 – Get Rid of Distractions

I am just going to touch on this one.

Look for what is a time suck and a distraction for you. These often prevent you from being a successful leader and just a good leader.

  • Are you living in your email?
  • Do your employees struggle to get 1:1 time with you?
  • Do you lack the time to focus?

Look at your week and day. How much time do you really dedicate to your team over the mundane and admin?


Well – that was a longer blog than anticipated.

My hope is that it made you think and look inward. There is no judgment here.

Too often, we promote people and expect them to know how to lead. Often they are promoted by people who were also never taught.

The rest will follow when you detach from managing profits and KPIs and start leading your people based on human-centered strategies. Spend the time to know yourself; what is it that makes you tick? What is it that you love about your job, and what would you change if you could?

If your favorite part of being a leader is not your team, you are in the wrong job! Remember, leadership is a journey, not a destination. Continuously learning and adapting to new challenges will ensure you remain an effective and inspiring leader.

Connect with me, follow my socials, and let’s stay in touch.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 15 Leadership Principles?

Trust is everything
Embrace accountability
Build emotional intelligence
Encourage collaboration
Develop cultural intelligence
Foster a growth mindset
Prioritize ethical decision-making
Practice active listening
Set realistic goals
Provide constructive feedback
Develop resilience and mindfulness
Assess your current leadership practices
Develop a personal leadership philosophy
Focus on continuous improvement and adaptation
Get rid of distractions

How do leadership principles differ from management techniques?

Leadership principles focus on inspiring and guiding teams, while management techniques are more about processes, tasks, and metrics.

Why is trust considered the most important leadership principle?

Trust is the foundation of any relationship. If a team trusts their leader, they are more likely to follow them wholeheartedly, share concerns openly, and commit to the shared vision.

How can I develop emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence can be honed by engaging in active listening, setting achievable objectives, giving helpful feedback, and taking ownership of actions. It’s about understanding and managing your own emotions and those of others.

What is the significance of cultural intelligence in leadership?

Cultural intelligence allows leaders to understand and interpret the gestures and body language of team members from different cultures, promoting harmony and reducing misunderstandings in diverse teams.

Why is continuous improvement important in leadership?

Continuous improvement ensures that leaders remain adaptable and up-to-date with changing situations, technologies, and industry trends, ensuring their effectiveness in guiding their teams.

How can leaders manage distractions effectively?

Leaders should identify time-consuming tasks that don’t add value, prioritize tasks, delegate when necessary, and set aside dedicated time for team interactions.

What’s the difference between a leader and a manager?

While managers focus on tasks, processes, and results, leaders inspire, guide, and work for their teams. Leadership is influencing and inspiring, while management is organizing and executing.

Why is vulnerability important in leadership?

Being open and vulnerable creates an environment of trust and authenticity. It allows leaders to connect with their teams on a deeper level and fosters open communication.

How can I assess my current leadership practices?

To assess current leadership practices, gather data, analyze it, and come up with an action plan. This helps identify gaps, develop strategies, and enhance leadership skills.