4 Foundational Principles of Leadership

There’s no perfect way to lead, but there’s a good way, and these four foundational principles lay the groundwork for long-term success as a leader. 

The Ready to Lead Podcast is the show that gives you—the leader—the tools, tips, and insights you need to grow your team, your company, and yourself. In this second episode, hosts Richard Lindner and Jeff Mask dive into their philosophy of leadership. 

“As we start on this journey together,” Richard says, “we can’t move forward until we break down what leadership means to us. What is the lens through which we’ll view every conversation we have?”

Leaders have different leadership styles; Jeff and Richard are classic examples of that. There’s no one right way to lead. But no matter your personality, there are foundational principles that should undergird your leadership if you want to lead well and sustain results. 

Four Foundational Principles of Leadership

These are the foundational principles every leader needs to be aware of and cultivate—and in this particular order.

  1. Mindset
  2. Culture
  3. Communication
  4. Trust

Mindset is how we think, how we process the world, how we look in the mirror, how we talk to ourselves, our motives. Culture is there whether you like it or not, whether it’s toxic culture or accidental culture or an intentional culture. Communication that’s consistent and clear is how we help our team see the vision of the company the way we see it. And trust is the foundation that holds everything together. If there’s no trust between a leader and the team members, everything falls apart.

On top of that foundation, we build leadership pillars: creating clarity, growing people, managing constraints, and driving results. These things don’t get done if we don’t lay that foundational framework from the beginning. 

Why Mindset Has to Go First

It all starts with mindset. Peter Drucker, one of the greatest leadership and business minds of all time, has a book called Managing Oneself. You have to know what your strengths and weaknesses are and have the EQ to acknowledge those, make peace with those, and build teams around those. 

You may be thinking, if it starts with mindset, how do I know if my mindset is strong? Jeff likes to focus on the motive. When it comes to leadership, what’s your motive for leading? He has a lot of people coming to him saying they want to lead. He asks them, “Are you sure? Why? Before you answer, I want you to think about it, process it for a couple days. Get really clear. Why do you want to lead?”

Very often people want to lead because they want more power, more money. They want to move up, climb the ladder, feel the progress and achievement. Those can be fine, but if your deepest motive isn’t developing, growing, and serving people, leadership will be very draining and difficult for you. 

When our motives are more about others and less about ourselves, then our mindset can be way more powerful and sustain us through the growth that inevitably comes when we lead. Be clear on your motive for leading, and your mindset will be in a solid place. 

From Mindset to Culture to Communication to Trust

Mindset—and your awareness of it—creates culture, then enables communication and trust. If we miss mindset, we’re in trouble, because it controls everything else. We can’t skip over it. Oftentimes we create toxic cultures because of our unhealthy relationship with ourselves. Then communication becomes sporadic, and sporadic communication leads to pirate ships and siloed teams and uprisings. It creates an us vs. them culture. There’s nothing more dangerous. And you’ll never get to a place of trust.

Richard says there’s nothing wrong with being coin-operated (he definitely is to a degree) as long as you seek alignment with people. He cares deeply about their team’s mission and empowering people. How do we empower and grow people? How do we put the right people in the right role, help them own it, and give them the clarity they need to drive the mission, the company’s goals? Your job as a leader is to duplicate yourself. That’s why mindset is important. That’s why culture, communication, and trust are important. 

This is the exercise for today. It’s a fun one. Look in the mirror. Look yourself in the eyes, and ask yourself this question, “What if there were 15 of me running around right now leading this company?”

If you threw up a little bit in your mouth, isn’t that a good gut-check question? If it stings a little, good news,—you know what you need to work on. Leadership isn’t never screwing up. Leadership is being self-aware enough, self-confident enough to admit you screwed up and say you’re sorry. You need the courage to employ that. It will make your life a whole lot better.

What’s Coming Up Next

Jeff says the number one question he gets as a CEO coach who develops leaders is this: How do I effectively hold my team accountable to deliver consistent results? 

It’s an age-old question, and Jeff and Richard will address it in the next episode. And you might very well be surprised at the answer.

Richard and Jeff want to hear from YOU. Have feedback on the show? Topics you’d like them to dive into? Things that resonated with you or that you disagreed with? Email them here: feedback@readytolead.com 


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