The Power of a Personal Approach to Leadership

Personal Development Written on Metal GearsPersonal leadership is about being authentic. It’s about stepping outside uniform expectations of behavior and leading based on your personal values and beliefs. It’s that personal touch that unlocks the true power of your leadership.

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Vera Ng’oma of ExcellicaGroup. Here’s the first part of our conversation on the power of personal leadership. The conversation was based upon the methods I write about in One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Vera Ng’oma: A lot is written on leadership but not much on personal leadership. How do you define personal leadership and why did you go with this focus in your book “One Piece of Paper”?

Mike Figliuolo: Personal leadership is about being an authentic individual. It’s about being yourself. Too many leadership models and approaches out there tell people “Look, we want you to be authentic but here’s exactly how we want you to behave.” That doesn’t make any sense. That advice is contradictory. It’s telling people that who they are is okay only as long as it fits a model for behavior. I prefer flipping that model around and saying “You’re okay how you are. Your beliefs and perspectives matter. Here are the job outcomes we want from you. Use your leadership approach how you think you’ll be most effective to achieve those goals.” That approach enables people to be truly authentic.

VN: Leadership is complicated but you’ve distilled it down to a core – the leadership maxims approach which evidently works. How did you assess that such a basic framework would be enough and effective as a tool?

MF: Simplicity is more challenging than people think. The more complicated a leadership model is, the less likely it is to be put into daily practice. It’s that daily practice that builds effectiveness. What I’ve learned with this very simple framework is that people actually use it. When you can write your entire leadership philosophy on your coffee mug like a CFO I’ve worked with has done, the odds of applying that philosophy all day every day go up dramatically. He’s distilled his approach to something simple and he carries it with him everywhere he goes. That constant reminder of who he is and what he stands for is more likely to guide his actions than some big, convoluted model written in a giant binder that sits on his book shelf gathering dust.

VN: Some of the feedback on your book is on how this approach to leadership is helping people learn about themselves. What’s been some of the feedback you’ve received that has pleasantly surprised you?

MF: I always love to hear how people feel more confident about who they are as a leader and that the leadership maxims model has enabled them to build that confidence. When they tell me the model has helped guide them through challenging situations and did so effectively, I take that as tremendous praise.

VN: What seemed to have resonated with your audience also is how the personal focus on leadership helps one to be clear about their motivations and values. But leadership is also about leading others. How does one ensure the personal leadership philosophy they craft will meet the needs of those they lead?

MF: A big part of the leadership maxims method is taking one’s beliefs and values and finding opportunities to apply them to daily situations. Those situations are comprised of opportunities to lead others. When you can look at something you value and apply it to a challenge a member of your team is facing, that’s a measure of effectiveness of the method. If, for example, I have a value around knowing my people as individuals and understanding their personal needs and motivations, when I apply that value to how I interact with a member of my team, I’m using that value to lead someone else. When my insight into their motivations helps me lead them in a way that links the outcomes I desire to their personal motivations, that’s successful leadership.

VN: From your work and teachings, what do you see as the biggest struggle people have in living up to the leadership they aspire to and what’s your advice on how they can overcome such challenges?

MF: There’s a lot of pressure on leaders to achieve results. Many times that drive for results can cause conflict with the leader’s belief system. At the very least it can lead them to prioritize short-term results over building trusting relationships with team members. Those are the critical moments where leaders have to demonstrate the courage to push back on the drive for short-term results at the expense of the people they lead. I’m not saying you don’t need to achieve the results. What I’m saying is leaders have to find that balance between the results and how they work with their team to achieve them. The advice I give in those situations is to live up to the values you’ve articulated in your leadership maxims. Use that leadership philosophy as a filter to guide your behaviors and choices. It will help you strike the right balance between the results you’re trying to achieve and the way you lead your team members to achieve them.

One Piece of Paper by Mike Figliuolo– If you want to learn more about personal leadership, grab a copy of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. There are plenty of suggestions in there for how you can be a more authentic leader. CLICK HERE to get your copy.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

Some background on my interviewer Vera Ng’oma: she is a leadership, career and personal development coach and Founder/CEO of ExcellicaGroup. Her professional experience spans senior roles in various industries including in news media, international development and education and training. She is author of several books including Rules for Rising: How to Kick Mediocrity to the Curb, Class to Corporate: A Practical Guide for a Strong, Smart Start to Your Career, BIG Leadership: How to Lead in a Bold, Inspiring and Gracious Way and Peak Persona: Put the Power of Your Potential to Work. You can learn more about her work at

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