The Four Foundational Principles of Leadership

Now that we've defined what a leader is, let's take it a step further with the four foundational principles of leadership.

business owner leading business meeting
kasto/stock.adobe.com

All companies on Earth rise and fall on the strengths of their leaders. To be successful, you'll have to learn to be a real leader. There are plenty of definitions of what a leader is and what it takes to become a leader. For example, I define a leader as a person who works hard to be the best at what they do. By becoming the best, that leader provides an example or blueprint for others to follow—meaning that other people will follow you as the leader in order to learn so that one day in the not-so-distant future, they too can become a leader. This is the basic "monkey see, monkey do" formula for growing a company.

Now that we've defined what a leader is, let's take it a step further with the four foundational principles of leadership.

1. Hold yourself accountable before you hold anyone else accountable.

If you're going to be a leader, the first person you're going to need to lead is yourself. How can you ask anyone to be committed to a standard of excellence if you're not? How can you expect people to be enthusiastic about your vision or going to work if you aren't? How do you expect people to put in the work if you're not?

This is something very simple, but many people think they can avoid the work or trick people into believing that they're doing the work. You have to get in the habit of looking in the mirror every day and constantly asking yourself the hard questions. You have to focus on your own self-development before you start looking to develop other people. Just because you have a fancy title and outrank them in the office structure doesn't mean people are going to follow you. They'll only follow you when you're what you want them to become.

2. Hold yourself to a much higher standard than anyone else.

If you're going to be a leader, you need to have much higher standards for yourself than you have for anyone else. If you expect x amount of work and x amount of excellence from your employees, you'll need to put out 10 times or more than that from yourself.

Other employees aren't your measure of success. You're your own measure of success, and you need to hold yourself accountable for what you're capable of. If you don't, people will never become the leaders you're trying to create. Let's say on a scale of one to 10, you put out an effort level of seven. Then, you should expect a three or four level of effort from your employees. It's very rare to have an employee match or outperform your effort.

3. You need to care with your heart.

You'll never become a leader if you don't have a strong passion for what you're doing. Do you actually care about the purpose or solution your business provides to your clients? Do you care about your employee's well-being? Do you care about their personal development? Do you care about their careers? If your answer is "No," you need to find something else that you do care about and do that. I know that's a hard thing to swallow, but it's the truth. Faking that you care isn't a solution, and it will be very obvious to others.

4. Continuously seek knowledge.

As a leader, you're looked upon as the expert in whatever you do. So, as a leader, you must constantly seek knowledge relevant to your field, and you must keep abreast of current developments in your field as they occur. Also, as a leader, you must learn from your own and others' mistakes to become more successful by applying the lessons of experience learned. This can be done in three ways.

The first is networking outside of the peers you currently work with. Weekend seminars, speaker panels, and industry events are the three best ways in my mind. Ask and hear what others are doing in your field. What struggles are they facing? Are they using a new technology or system to assist them in their business? Is a problem that you're facing right now something that they already overcame and found a solution for?

Second, watch YouTube videos on what you're seeking. YouTube is a treasure trove of information that many speakers use to highlight their key points in their in-person seminars. Also, many YouTubers document their journey, which can help you avoid or solve problems that you may be facing or will face in the future.

And third is good old-fashioned reading. As they say, "Leaders are readers." They're correct. I'm not talking about science fiction or romantic novels. No, I'm talking about reading up on updates in your field, industry news bulletins, articles on new technology being implemented, and what other successful leaders are doing to lead their respective companies.

To be successful as a leader, you'll have to learn to be a real leader. You can do this by following the four foundational principles of leadership. It starts with holding yourself accountable before you hold anyone else accountable and, from there, holding yourself to a much higher standard. Finally, it means having a strong passion for what you're doing and continuously seeking knowledge.

The Newsweek Expert Forum is an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.
What's this?
Content labeled as the Expert Forum is produced and managed by Newsweek Expert Forum, a fee based, invitation only membership community. The opinions expressed in this content do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Newsweek or the Newsweek Expert Forum.