Leadership principles: your most powerful leadership development tool

One of the most important aspects of effective leadership is having a clear set of principles that guide your decisions and actions. Check more here.
The Shiken Team
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According to a survey by Gartner leader and manager effectiveness is the most frequent top priority (60% of respondents) among HR leaders. Despite this 24% of HR leaders say their leadership development approach does not prepare leaders for the future of work.

As today’s work environment changes, leaders must embrace human-centric leadership, defined by three traits:

· Authenticity: Enable true self-expression for themselves and their teams

· Empathy: Show genuine care, respect, and concern for employee well-being

· Adaptivity: Enable flexibility and support that fits the unique needs of team members

In this blog post, we will explore the most powerful leadership development tool - defining your leadership principles - that not only captures your team's attention but also fosters a collaborative and productive environment.

Define Your Leadership Principles

Leadership infographic

As a company leader, you are responsible for setting the tone for your organization and guiding your team towards success. One of the most important aspects of effective leadership is having a clear set of principles that guide your decisions and actions.

By defining your leadership principles, you can create a framework for yourself and your team that aligns with your company's mission and values.

Here are some key steps to defining your leadership principles:

  1. Identify your values: Your leadership principles should be based on your personal values and beliefs. Take some time to reflect on what is most important to you and what you want to achieve as a leader.
  2. Assess your strengths and weaknesses: Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you identify areas where you need to improve and focus on developing your leadership skills.
  3. Talk to others: Seek feedback from your colleagues, employees, and mentors to get a better understanding of how they perceive your leadership style and what they think your strengths and weaknesses are.
  4. Create your principles: Use your values, strengths, and weaknesses as a guide to create a set of principles that will guide your leadership decisions and actions. These principles should be concise and easy to remember.
  5. Communicate your principles: Share your leadership principles with your team and stakeholders, so they understand how you operate as a leader and what they can expect from you.
  6. Lead by example: Your leadership principles are only meaningful if you practice them consistently. Use your principles to guide your decisions and actions, and hold yourself accountable to them.

Defining your leadership principles can help you build trust with your team and create a culture of accountability and excellence. By setting a clear example for others to follow, you can inspire your team to work towards a shared vision and achieve great results.

The Importance of Leadership Development

Once you have defined your leadership principles, it's important to focus on developing your leadership skills to become an effective and successful leader. Leadership development is a critical component of building a successful organization, and it can help you and your team achieve your goals and reach your full potential.

Here are some reasons why leadership development is so important:

  1. Improved Communication: Effective communication is essential to success in any organization. Leadership development programs can help you improve your communication skills, which can help you convey your vision and goals more clearly to your team.
  2. Increased Employee Engagement: Strong leaders know how to engage and motivate their employees. Leadership development can help you learn how to build relationships with your team, set clear expectations, and create a positive work environment.
  3. Enhanced Decision Making: Effective leaders are skilled decision-makers. Leadership development can help you learn how to make informed decisions based on data, intuition, and experience.
  4. Adaptability: The business world is constantly changing, and leaders need to be able to adapt to new situations and challenges. Leadership development can help you learn how to navigate change, overcome obstacles, and stay focused on your goals.
  5. Better Employee Retention: Employees are more likely to stay with a company if they feel valued and supported. Leadership development can help you create a culture of growth and development, which can lead to increased employee satisfaction and retention.

Investing in your leadership development can have a significant impact on your organization's success. By improving your skills and knowledge, you can become a more effective leader, build stronger relationships with your team, and drive better results for your business.

Codifying Your Leadership Principles

Codifying your leadership principles means turning them into actionable steps and behaviors that guide how you and your team operate.

By codifying your principles, you create a clear and consistent framework for decision-making and behavior, which can help your organization achieve its goals and build a strong culture.

Here are some steps to codifying your leadership principles:

  1. Break down your principles: Take each of your leadership principles and break them down into specific behaviors and actions. For example, if one of your principles is "act with integrity," specific behaviors could include being honest with your team, following through on commitments, and being transparent in your communication.
  2. Communicate your principles: Share your codified leadership principles with your team, so everyone understands how they can contribute to the organization's success. This could include incorporating them into employee onboarding and training, displaying them on your website, or referring to them in team meetings.
  3. Hold yourself and your team accountable: Codifying your leadership principles is only effective if you and your team hold yourselves accountable to them. This means consistently using them to guide your decisions and actions and having open discussions when they are not being followed.
  4. Evaluate and adjust: Regularly evaluate how well your leadership principles are being followed and adjust them as needed. Your organization may evolve, and your principles may need to adapt to new challenges or opportunities.

Codifying your leadership principles can help create a culture of accountability, consistency, and excellence in your organization. By turning your principles into actionable steps and behaviors, you give yourself and your team a roadmap for success that aligns with your values and goals.

The Power of Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is a powerful tool for personal and professional growth, and it's especially important for leaders who want to continuously improve their leadership skills.

Taking the time to reflect on your actions, decisions, and behaviors can help you identify areas where you can improve and build on your strengths.

Here are some ways self-reflection can benefit leaders:

  1. Gain self-awareness: Self-reflection helps you gain a deeper understanding of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This can help you become more self-aware and better able to manage your reactions in challenging situations.
  2. Identify blind spots: Leaders often have blind spots, or areas where they may not be aware of their limitations or weaknesses. Self-reflection can help you identify these blind spots and take steps to address them.
  3. Improve decision-making: Reflecting on past decisions can help you learn from your mistakes and make better decisions in the future. This can lead to better outcomes for your organization and team.
  4. Enhance relationships: Self-reflection can also help you improve your relationships with others. By understanding your own emotions and behaviors, you can be more empathetic and supportive of others, which can help build trust and foster stronger relationships.
  5. Foster continuous learning: Effective leaders are always learning and growing. Self-reflection can help you identify areas where you need to develop your skills and knowledge, and create a plan for continuous learning and improvement.

Self-reflection can be done through journaling, meditation, or simply taking time to think and reflect on your experiences. By making self-reflection a regular practice, you can become a more effective and empathetic leader, build stronger relationships with your team, and drive better results for your organization.

5 Key Leadership Principles

As a leader, there are countless principles that can guide your decisions and actions. However, some principles are particularly important for building strong teams and achieving success in today's fast-paced and complex business environment.

Here are five key leadership principles that can help you drive results and build a positive organizational culture:

1. Build psychological safety: 

Creating a culture of psychological safety means fostering an environment where team members feel comfortable taking risks and speaking up without fear of punishment or judgment. When employees feel safe to voice their opinions and ideas, they are more likely to be innovative and engaged.

2. Be authentic & transparent: 

Authenticity and transparency are essential for building trust with your team. As a leader, it's important to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your vision and goals for the organization. This creates a culture of openness and trust, which can lead to better communication and collaboration.

3. Empathy:

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. As a leader, it's important to be empathetic to the needs and concerns of your team members. This can help build stronger relationships and create a culture of support and understanding.

4. Adaptability:

The ability to adapt to change and uncertainty is essential for success in today's business world. As a leader, it's important to be flexible and open to new ideas and approaches. This can help your team stay nimble and respond quickly to challenges and opportunities.

5. Turn complexity into clarity:

In today's complex business environment, it's important to be able to simplify and communicate complex ideas and concepts. As a leader, it's important to be able to distill complex information into clear and actionable steps for your team. This can help your team stay focused and aligned on your goals.

By incorporating these five key leadership principles into your decision-making and behavior, you can create a positive and productive organizational culture, drive better results, and become a more effective leader.

Amazon's Leadership Principles 

Amazon leadership principles landing page

To give you even more ideas about how to create your own leadership principles here are the 16 Amazon Leadership Principles used by leaders at amazon when starting projects and making leadership decisions on a daily basis.

Customer Obsession

Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.


Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”

Invent and Simplify

Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here.” As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

Are Right, A Lot

Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

Learn and Be Curious

Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

Hire and Develop the Best

Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

Insist on the Highest Standards

Leaders have relentlessly high standards — many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

Think Big

Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

Bias for Action

Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.


Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

Earn Trust

Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Dive Deep

Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit

Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

Deliver Results

Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer

Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse, and more just work environment. They lead with empathy, have fun at work, and make it easy for others to have fun. Leaders ask themselves: Are my fellow employees growing? Are they empowered? Are they ready for what’s next? Leaders have a vision for and commitment to their employees’ personal success, whether that be at Amazon or elsewhere.

Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

We started in a garage, but we’re not there anymore. We are big, we impact the world, and we are far from perfect. We must be humble and thoughtful about even the secondary effects of our actions.

Local communities, planet, and future generations need us to be better every day. We must begin each day with a determination to make better, do better, and be better for our customers, our employees, our partners, and the world at large. And we must end every day knowing we can do even more tomorrow. Leaders create more than they consume and always leave things better than how they found them.

Leadership Principles FAQs

What is the definition of leadership?

Leadership can be defined as the ability to inspire and influence others towards achieving a common goal or vision. It involves creating a vision, setting goals and objectives, communicating effectively, motivating and inspiring others, making decisions, and managing resources to achieve the desired outcomes.

Effective leadership involves a combination of personal traits, skills, and behaviors, and requires adaptability, creativity, and a strong commitment to ethical and moral values. Leadership can occur at any level of an organization, and can be demonstrated by both formal and informal leaders.

How can leadership principles improve my leadership skills?

Leadership principles can have a significant impact on your leadership skills by providing a framework for decision-making and behavior.

By defining and codifying your leadership principles, you create a clear and consistent roadmap for yourself and your team, which can help guide your actions and decisions in a way that aligns with your organization's mission and values.

What are some common leadership principles used by successful leaders?

There are many leadership principles used by successful leaders, but some common ones include building trust through transparency and authenticity, fostering a culture of innovation and risk-taking, leading by example and setting clear expectations, embracing diversity and inclusivity, and constantly learning and adapting to change.

Effective leaders also prioritize communication, empathy, and accountability, and are committed to creating a positive and supportive work environment. These principles help guide decision-making and behavior, and can help create a strong organizational culture and drive better results.

Does every organization need their own set of leadership principles?

Every organization should have their own set of leadership principles that align with their unique mission, values, and goals.

Leadership principles provide a clear framework for decision-making and behavior, and help guide how leaders and employees operate within the organization.

By defining and codifying their own set of principles, organizations can create a consistent culture that aligns with their vision and drives better results.

How can I develop my own set of leadership principles?

To develop your own set of leadership principles, you can start by reflecting on your values, strengths, and weaknesses as a leader.

Consider what is important to you, what you want to achieve, and how you want to lead. Seek feedback from colleagues, mentors, and employees to gain a better understanding of how you are perceived as a leader.

Once you have identified your core principles, break them down into specific behaviors and actions that you can follow and communicate to your team.

Hold yourself accountable to your principles and adjust them as needed to ensure they align with your evolving goals and vision.

Can leadership principles change over time?

Yes, leadership principles can change over time. As organizations evolve and face new challenges, leaders may need to adapt their principles to ensure they remain relevant and effective.

Additionally, as leaders gain new experiences and insights, they may adjust their principles to reflect their personal growth and development. It is important for leaders to regularly evaluate their principles and adjust them as needed to ensure they align with their current goals, values, and vision.

Flexibility and adaptability are key traits of effective leaders, and being willing to evolve one's leadership principles can help ensure long-term success.

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