12 Principles of Successful Leaders
Nancy Kaur
27 May 2021

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.  When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.’ Jack Welch

There are many leadership styles and approaches available.  During the pandemic, leadership challenges have increased, and the complexity of leading can be daunting.  Hence, the awareness for change has shifted from orthodox leadership principles and practices to autocratic, transactional, transformational, and building towards a more positive, value-based, authentic leadership approach.

Leaders of today must be committed to a process of continuous change which requires active and visible leadership to find the courage and ingenuity to grow personally and professionally for the benefit of all employees.  Three of the leadership approaches explored in this are article are:

  • Autocratic – controlled power – team members feeling undervalued, creating disharmony and underperformance,
  • Transformational provides vision and a sense of mission, instils pride, gains respect and trust, and
  • Transactional focuses on the operational and day to day tasks.  This leadership style is contractual and rewards for effort and good performance. Often, the term ‘carrot and stick’ are associated with the transactional leadership approach.

Throughout my career I have worked for leaders who have aligned with these three styles. As I grew my career, I realised that I wanted to take the negative experiences and turn them into positive approaches and weave them into my own leadership style.

While leadership may be regarded as a workplace function, my intention is to integrate positive behaviours into my personal world also.  To tackle this is in a planned and considered way I developed twelve principles that I strive toward in my practice. 

These are:

  1. Be true to character.  For me, this means to be honest and authentic.  We all have good and bad days or even positive and negative moments, but I strive toward a positive approach to all relationships.
  2. Lead with a vision.  At a pivotal stage in my career, I worked on a transformation program and the leader of the organisation said, ‘we are going to transform. 

    I do not know what that looks like, but we are changing nonetheless’. What?  How can we align our function or form if you don’t what the future state will look like? So, second principle for me is to make sure that I have a clear vision of the future before I communicate a change.
  3. Manage with a plan.  I love a good plan.  I like to start program development or project with a strategy map. This map provides critical information for the program or project. 

    For example, I consider stakeholders, program impacts, rationale for the program or project and many other critical considerations.  At the beginning of the project, I share this strategy map with my stakeholders to get their feedback.  Of course, the strategy map is a centrepiece in my discussions with my team.
  4. Prioritise your time.  This principle is not always easy to accomplish.  Time is such an important factor that influences our entire lives. However, while studying and working full time I found that I was more organised than I had ever been in my life.  Why?  Well, I had to ensure that I was rigorous with managing my time.
  5. Live the Golden Rule in business and life.  I am going to leave this one here for you to consider.  The Golden Rule is as individual as we are, so, what is your Golden Rule?
  6. Build and maintain trust.  As I said previously, these principles span across work and life.  Trust is one of the most important aspects of relationship management.  How do we build trust?  There is so much to unpack here. Perhaps this is a conversation for another day? 
  7. Be an effective communicator. It is always best to present your views in a way that is best understood by the receiver.  There are many strategies for effective communication and here are some characteristics of effective communication:


  • Innovate through imagination. I love this principle.  I think that this one aligns perfectly with the second principle: Lead with a Vision. The only consideration I would like to add here is that ‘Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things’ Theodore Levitt.
  • Be accountable. This principle is consistently played out by leaders around the world.  How many leaders do you know who are not accountable for their actions?  Don’t be like them. If you make a mistake or have not delivered; then just be honest.  Being accountable is a partner to trust, don’t you think?
  • Apply the power of knowledge.  I don’t mean that you need to have a degree in every discipline.  What I mean is that you need to be able to research or recruit.  If you do not have the expertise in a particular area, then research. 

    If you know that the required capability is truly outside your ability to research and apply, then recruit the appropriate skill set.  I’ve always maintained that I recruit people who cleverer than I am. And if you apply that same philosophy then, make sure that you listen to them and utilise their knowledge appropriately.
  • Live in peace and balance.  This can be a constant in our very busy and demanding lives. I have come to realise just how important this principle is and ensure that I continually apply it across work and life realms.
  • Never give up!  No matter how many times you hit a brick wall with your projects keep on going.  Being resilient is about accepting a new reality. It is good to look at challenges and confrontations from a different perspective.  Resilience has been described as the capacity for positive outcomes despite challenging or threatening situations.

In closing, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’ John Quincy Adams

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