The First Steps of Writing a Personal Leadership Philosophy

3 min read
April 17, 2017

I recently engaged in a mentor/mentee relationship that has, within a span of three phone meetings, evolved my sense of self in both a professional and personal capacity.

My mentor must be a bad-ass, right?

Well, yes, she is. No doubt about it. In fact, it was the very first assignment she gave me to complete, and the process of completing it, that was a major catalyst for my progress.

During our first call I explained my role at XY Planning Network, touched on my hobbies outside of work, and alluded to a few of my personal and professional challenges. I wasn’t surprised when my mentor, a Naval Academy alumna, cut immediately to the chase and asked “have you ever written out the leadership principles you value in yourself and others?”

“” Leadership principles?

Right then and there, my mentor explained the importance of having a “PLP”, or a Personal Leadership Philosophy: a document that outlines the leadership principles that are most important to me and the philosophical umbrella of values under which I work.

How else will people know what I expect of them and of myself? If I have a PLP and share it with my team and peers, I could grow to be a more consistent, approachable and effective leader and teammate. A PLP removes grey areas, prevents misread signals and allows for productive relationships, whether or not the author even considers themselves to be a leader.

To begin, she asked me to reflect on the leaders that I’ve had the honor of working with. What about them made them great leaders? What experiences impacted me the most? What stood out to me most about how they handled conflict, a challenge or a project?

Examples started popping up: until XYPN, I never had a boss tell me that “mistakes happen” and that “we’d handle them as a team,” an attitude that has allowed me to work with confidence. I loved the camaraderie one of my previous coaches instilled in a team of mine, something I credit for our shared success.

We talked about hot buttons: things that make me and others unproductive or shut down. A few came to mind: Disrespect. Addressing issues too late. Lying.

Those, she said, were the beginnings of my leadership principles.

Her advice was that I begin to take inventory and attempt to define my values. She assured me that my PLP is an evolving document: some things may be important to me now and not so much in future, or I may come across scenarios or experiences that lead me to add or remove values from my list.

She offered to share her PLP with me the next time we met. She said she’d like for me to ultimately present mine to her, my peers and to my team. What I’d soon come to learn is that by doing so, I’d open myself up to a world of critique, expectations and accountability that I wouldn’t have otherwise. My work was just beginning.

As I started the process of writing my PLP, I couldn’t help but think about how this could translate to the community I work with: our XYPN advisors. As leaders to clients and teams, advisors certainly need to delineate their core values, beliefs and expectations. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a PLP (or an ‘Advisory Philosophy’) for your clients to hear/see even prior to engagement? You could urge your team or clients to do take an inventory of their own leadership values, or financial values? The options are endless!

XYPN Maddy Roche Headshot

About the Author

Maddy Roche is the Director of Getting Shit Done at XYPN, and has been getting shit done since she joined the team in May of 2014 when the Network was made up of our first 30 founding members. Since then, Maddy has worked with and welcomed each of the Network’s 300+ members, and helps all of them take advantage of XYPN membership. Maddy is responsible for member benefits and services, including management of vendor partnerships and member rollouts and initiatives. She manages XYPN’s Compliance Team and has a blast working on the XYPN annual conference. Maddy lives in Issaquah, WA, where she spends her days listening to the rain at coffee shops and running on trails.

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