The Essence of Principled Leadership

Tony Benn, a well-known Labour politician who died in 2014, came to mind recently, which made me think about principled leadership. Although many people disagreed with Tony Benn’s ideas, I  think we have to respect the way he went about them.

He was born into the upper middle class, and yet turned down his heredity peerage which would have prevented him from serving in the House of Commons, because he wanted to serve there in order to help people.

How many of us would have done that?

Often he was very outspoken, stating his beliefs which were often divisive, rather than diluting his message in order to increase his popularity and chances of success. His beliefs were his beliefs and not negotiable in return for increased popularity.

He was not one who would look to say something just to curry favour in order to gain power, which is an anathema to many politicians, who seem to be prepared to say anything or change their position on key topics in order to seize power.

Whether you liked Tony Benn or not, you could always believe that what he said was in fact his beliefs and the path that he would look to follow.

He was an authentic leader, one who had many followers, but not enough for him to be selected as the overall leader. But he maintained his principles rather than sell out.

It’s this style of principled leadership that many of us are looking for, a leader that we can trust, one who will not change course just because of the impact it has on their popularity.

This is also the type of leader we should look to be. Leaders who have clear values and principles,  ones which our followers know and that will be used to make the choices and decisions ahead of us.

One of the best bosses I ever worked for had a clear set of principles which shaped everything he did. The beauty of this was that whenever I had to deputise from him it was easy to make the right decision because I always knew what he would do in that situation.

It was this predictability, this consistency with which he followed his principles, which helped him build trust in the organisation.

If you’re constantly changing your approach depending on the popularity of your decisions, people don’t know who you really are or what you stand for, all they see is someone who is hungry for power and who will say and do anything in order to get it.

For me, principled leadership is the way to go.

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