may take some time. Like a well thought- through Act of Congress, it involves hard thinking, research and a lot of dialog. This is not a process where the leader who has all the answers squelches the independent thinking of everyone, so there is little movement into the future. Rather, this leader facilitates the best thinking from all around the table. When the organization finally arrives at its guiding principles, then, and only then, is it free to develop its vision and goals, both short- and long-term. I disagree with the commonly-asserted idea that vision must come from the leader. It may. It is better, though, when it is organically derived in the organization, with input and honing from the best thinking of everyone in organizational leadership positions. Once the organization is clear about its guiding principles, it can hold up to those principles every decision needing to be made, to see how the decision aligns with the principles of the organization.This makes leadership infinitely smoother. A leader becomes the major facilitator in the honing out of principles. He or she enables people to
do what they came there to do, and to be their best selves. Guiding principles are there as a calming influence. However, guiding principles are calming only when people refer to them, so one of the jobs of leadership is to remember to refer the group to the principles at crucial times of decision-making and strategic planning. When guiding principles are referred to, it is calming to the group, because it takes the group to a higher plane than that involved in the intensity of emotion or the rancor of personality clashes. Everyone loves working in this open, thoughtful kind of atmosphere. Does the leader need personal guiding principles? Absolutely! Again, for each of us,
they take time and sometimes research, to work out, and much thought. Then they are tried out in the crucible of life experience. If they don’t work out in that laboratory, they are changed to fit life experience. Guiding principles, for individuals or for organizations, are not set in concrete. They can be modified if new data become available. But when they are well worked out and readily available, they make for a life – and leadership – lived on a higher level. A calmer, more thoughtful person is one who is led by his or her own guiding principles. He or she carries around much less anxiety than most people. Relationships are easier. They are a joy to be around. We’d all like to be that kind of person. The organizations they lead are more efficient, bringing out more and better products, services, and ways of doing things. Guiding principles are a large part of the secret of these high-level leaders and of their organizations. Dr. Roberta Gilbert is the author of several books, including Extraordinary Relationships , The Eight Concepts of Bowen Thinking, Extraordinary Leadership , and The Cornerstone Concept .
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