Understanding what inspires you to do your best work is one of the first steps in developing your leadership philosophy.
As you begin articulating your leadership philosophy, the first place to start is leading yourself. You need to know why you’re excited to go to work every day. Why do you get out of bed every day? Because as leaders, we’re there to inspire and motivate the members of our team. For us to do so, we should probably be motivated first and foremost.
Now, in terms of a maxim, a maxim is a trigger to remind you of a story or something that’s emotionally resonant. My maxim, in terms of why do I get out of bed every day, is light bulbs. Two words, light bulbs. That might not mean a lot to you, but it means the world to me because the type of work that I love to do, the best moments in my career, are moments where I’m teaching, where I’m doing something like I’m doing right now. When I teach and I see a participant struggling with an idea, but then I’m able to explain it in a manner that I see that light bulb go off—I see their face light up—that’s so exciting for me, and so fulfilling. That’s the type of work that I love to do. There’s huge emotional resonance in the notion of light bulbs for me.
Maxims should drive behavior. Let me show you how maxims can drive my behavior when I think about light bulbs. Imagine a situation where a client comes to me and they say, “Mike, we’ve got two pieces of work for you. You can only do one. One is going off into a cubicle and working by yourself on an Excel model. The other piece of work is writing a new leadership training course for us and delivering it to our high-potential associates.” As I think about light bulbs, it becomes very clear to me that I should walk away from the Excel course and instead go teach leadership to people because that’s where I’m going to have those light bulb moments.
Now, that’s an easy example. Not many of us like to sit in a cubicle by ourselves and do Excel. Let’s imagine a more difficult choice for me where my maxim can drive the right behavior. What if instead the client came to me and said, “Well, we have a project for you, and it’s going off in a cubicle by yourself and building an Excel model, and that’s the only piece of work that we’re going to offer you.” Now, as an entrepreneur, it’s very hard to walk away from money. When money is put on the table in front of you, that’s a very easy choice to make. But as I look at my maxims, my maxim of light bulbs would say, “You know what? I shouldn’t do that work, and I should go find new work that’s much more aligned with teaching and coaching and turning light bulbs on for people.”
As you think about articulating your maxim for why you get out of bed every day, think back to times where you’ve been extremely satisfied or excited by the work that you’re doing. What are those days that have just been so fulfilling? When you come home, you’re still energized even though you left a lot of that energy at work? Think about those situations you’ve been in that have been meaningful to you—they’ve been fun, and you’re very proud of those accomplishments.
Now, in that story, in those situations, think about a trigger. Think about something that can very quickly get you back to that spot where you remember what those feelings were like. That trigger, that small reminder that brings you back to the story, ends up being your personal maxim for why you get out of bed every day.
Want to learn more about developing your leadership philosophy? How about taking an entire course on it? Check out the video below to learn more about the course and get started. Or you can go directly to the course and start learning how to develop your leadership philosophy. The entire course is available at LinkedIn Learning. Enjoy!
Did you enjoy this post? If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog. It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!). SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!