True Leader


12 principles focus on personal attributes first, then broaden to encompass leadership. They are designed to help individuals develop their own cultures of excellence in every aspect of their lives.


Be True to Character

A true leader possesses the moral authority to guide others. Leaders can gain this authority by:

1. Being strong in the moment of choice. Individuals must make decisions based on their principles and values. These are “right” choices, and over the course of a lifetime they govern quality of life and establish moral authority.

2. Standing up and speaking out. This allows people to establish their moral authority by building integrity, whether on a small matter (witnessing and calling out an individual’s misdeed) or a large scale (Nelson Mandela’s unifying of South Africa).

3. Guarding character. The challenging times are what truly build character, and are when individuals must guard their characters. Leaders test themselves in challenging times, assessing themselves regularly on how they treat others and maintain their integrity, and ask others to do the same. They ask such questions as: “Is it legal? Is it fair? Can we be proud of this decision? Would we want this decision published in a newspaper?” Such questions challenge and test people’s characters, leading to greater moral authority.

Lead with a Vision

A vision, which is distinct from a mission or a plan, is a high-level view of a person’s or an organization’s desired outcome. Although a vision usually starts with an individual person, good leadership involves shepherding that vision through an organization to reach the hoped-for achievement.

A clear, compelling vision can transform an organization, and it:

*Sets a direction and rallies support.

*Carries a sense of urgency based on principles.

*Inspires others.

*Is clear and memorable.

*Provides direction.

*Aligns the organization.

*Embodies the values of the individual and the organization.

*Unites the organization, making each member a leader of the vision.

*Reaches into the future.

*Is clearly communicated to all stakeholders.

*Is integral to the organization’s culture.

It is possible to create both personal and organizational visions through a similar process of asking questions. For instance, individuals may ask themselves what they hope their personal legacy will be, or they can expand that to ask themselves what mark they hope their organizations will make on the world. An example of a personal vision is, “I will leave the world a better place than I found it,” while an example of an organizational vision is, “We form a force for positive local and global change.” A transformational vision can bring about transformative results.

Manage with a Plan

To reach either an individual or organizational vision, a person must have a plan. Studies show that people are up to 90 percent likelier to reach goals that are clearly written and to which they frequently refer. A demonstrably effective way to set goals is by using the roles and goals method, which contains five steps:

1. Review one’s vision and key roles. Every person plays different roles in life (e.g. manager, employee, parent, sibling, student, etc.). For this goal-setting experience, an individual should choose the roles to which the goals will most apply.

2. Develop annual goals in each role. Goals should adhere to the SMART anagram–that is, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time specific.

3. Share the goals. People are more accountable when others know about their goals. Mentors, colleagues, and friends are excellent people with whom to share goals.

4. Develop a plan and set milestones. People can find their milestones by breaking goals into manageable chunks and setting a deadline for each.

5. Post goals in a prominent place. People are more easily able to refer to their goals if they can easily see them; they can then use them for daily and weekly planning.

The roles and goals method can be applied to organizations as well, but it should be done through the lens of making a meaningful contribution within the organization. Instead of doing this exercise annually, organizations should check in on goals quarterly, ensuring that they remain aligned and on target.

When planning to reach their goals, people need to plan for contingencies in case things do not go as expected. Prepared individuals and leaders should have a “playbook” to which they can refer in order to react quickly to changes in circumstances.

It takes an effective leader to manage goals beyond the planning stage and into results. Strong managers require strong teams, which they can hire or create by instilling their visions.

Prioritize Time

For individual and organizational success, people must focus on daily and weekly steps that support the long-term goal of what matters most.

As a first step, people should get their priorities straight and think in terms of high quality and high quantity (HQ/HQ). They can do this by envisioning a lens, composed of their visions and goals, through which they can always focus on what matters most. Focusing on HQ/HQ leads to sustainable excellence as opposed to a short-lived success.

Shallenberger provides a quality and quantity matrix to help people determine if they are focusing on both quality and quantity. For example, they may be providing high-quality work, but not enough of it, or getting a lot of work done, but not of high quality. The HQ/HQ quadrant is the high-performance zone–the way to sustainable success.

HQ/HQ lends itself to pre-week planning, a time-management tool that focuses on scheduling priorities, rather than prioritizing schedules. Pre-week planning should be completed before the week begins, on a Saturday or Sunday, preferably when things are quiet. It comprises five steps:

  1. Review the vision and annual goals to keep the weekly plan in perspective, using the HQ/HQ lens to focus on what matters most.
  2. Look ahead one to three months to help prevent any crises at that time.
  3. Enter all meetings and commitments into the calendar, leaving some time flexible in case anything arises.
  4. Identify what matters most that week in each role. Leaders should prioritize the items that fit the vision for each role, ensuring that each week they move incrementally toward their goal.
  5. Determine a time during the week to do each item for each role, which helps to keep the things that matter from slipping away.

The act of planning is not enough to stay in the HQ/HQ zone; most people have too many demands on their time to be sure of getting everything done. Therefore, people should make sure to protect and conserve their time, such as by managing media more effectively, minimizing ineffective meetings, avoiding negative interactions, and doing tasks only once, without procrastinating.


Live the Golden Rule in Business and in Life

Every major religion, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, share this golden rule: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” Although this rule is timeless, modern technology and lack of face-to-face communication can make it difficult to follow.

Living the golden rule can help people reap what they sow; if they trust and care for their colleagues and friends, they are much more likely to receive positive results. For example, people can use the power of kindness by looking in advance for opportunities to help people. This can cause a ripple effect, as others, witnessing this behavior, will go out and do the same. Similarly, caring and giving service to others can be both a way of life and a way of doing business. Companies that rely on such principles find that they can do well by doing good: Their good deeds come back in terms of higher customer satisfaction. Putting others first may result in short-term losses, but can yield long-term gains.

There are four ways to live the golden rule:

  1. Carry a shield of love to combat darts of unkindness and selfishness.
  2. Empathize with others and think of their needs.
  3. Be compassionate with others instead of judging them.
  4. Celebrate differences and avoid prejudice in every form.

Build and Maintain Trust

Trust, which takes time to build and even more time to maintain, is crucial for any individual or business. A lack of trust in personal or professional relationships wastes both time and energy. Having a trust meter-a measurement of the level of trust in a given situation–is a good way to get a read on personal and professional relationships. A trust meter that reads “full” saves time and leads to greater satisfaction.

People can build trust through their actions–for example, by performing high-quality work on schedule, being consistent and predictable, and being open and truthful. In organizations, these actions build trust among supervisors, employees, customers, and other stakeholders. In particular, businesses can build trust with customers by increasing customer “touches” (i.e., interactions), praising team members, and finding common ground. The question “What is your story?” can build trust through empathy. When people learn the stories of those around them, they set the foundation for building trust.

Be an Effective Communicator

Good communication involves much more than self-expression; it involves being a good listener to ensure that the communication goes both ways. Poor communication can drastically decrease productivity.

To communicate more effectively, leaders should follow these specific guidelines:

*Look people in the eyes.

*Focus on what people are saying, rather than what to say next.

*Pay attention to body language.

*Repeat back what people say to check for understanding.

Roadblocks to effective communication include:

*Ordering or commanding.

*Warning or threatening.

*Moralizing or preaching.

*Giving solutions.

*Lecturing or arguing.

*Judging or criticizing.

*Being insincere.


*Analyzing and diagnosing.



*Distracting or making light of something.

While some of these roadblocks may be perfectly appropriate ways to communicate under specific circumstances, they are not suitable for leadership and general communication.

Feedback is an important part of communication. Sometimes people fail to engage in feedback, possibly out of fear of confrontation. To get around this, leaders can create a “continue-start-stop” feedback sheet, on which they evaluate what a person or company is doing well and what could use work. Similarly, leaders could use a 1-10 rating to evaluate and share how excited (or unexcited) they are about an activity or program.

Finally, emotional control is a central component of communication. People cannot communicate effectively if they are not in control of their words and nonverbal cues. Anger, of course, can derail any conversation. Anger management, practiced through patience, can get communication back on track.

Innovate Through Imagination

Successful companies are able to innovate over time. Disruptive technologies from companies like Apple and Google have changed the way people live and have guided these businesses to the apex of their fields. But how can individuals and organizations spur imagination and innovation?

One way to improve imagination is to be curious and ask the right questions. Great innovators like Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison gained success through asking questions and following their desire to understand how things work. Individuals can get their creative juices flowing by keeping a notebook in which they ask any questions that occur to them. Thinking through possible answers to these questions, especially ones that pertain to improving a person’s life or an organization, can help people focus on innovative ideas for improvement.

Brainstorming is a common way to improve innovation. These six steps can improve the brainstorming process:

  1. Form a group.
  2. Choose a leader.
  3. Support one another’s ideas.
  4. Brainstorm for 5 to 20 minutes.
  5. Choose a scribe to take notes.
  6. Narrow the list to two or three of the most actionable ideas.

After brainstorming, it can be important to walk away from the discussion. When people let ideas simmer for a while, their subconscious brains keep working, adding more depth and breadth. Keeping an idea book is a useful method for sustaining brainstorming.


Be Accountable

The most important part of being accountable is taking responsibility for events and circumstances. People who make excuses (“there was not enough time,” “the directions were not clear”) are failing to hold themselves accountable.

Accountable organizations require accountable leaders. Three strategies can help individuals and organizations live with accountability: focusing on areas of control, developing relationship agreements, and eliminating procrastination while providing follow-through.

Focusing on areas of control means not wasting time on things that individuals cannot control, such as the weather or other people’s actions. What people can (and should) control, however, are their own responses to challenges. When people take responsibility for situations and focus on what they can control, it leads to greater accountability.

Individuals should develop relationship agreements, which are documents to increase accountability among teams and within organizations. These eliminate confusion and allow all parties to feel a sense of control. Relationship agreements consist of four elements, which are identified through four questions:

  1. What is the vision?
  2. What are the reward systems?
  3. What are the expectations and guidelines?
  4. How is accountability established?

Finally, accountability is impossible with procrastination and lack of follow-through. Everyone can fall prey to procrastination sometimes; the best antidote is to reduce distractions whenever possible. If email and Internet prove too difficult to ignore, people can shut them down in order to increase productivity. Follow-through is easier to manage with these tips:

*Write down commitments in a calendar or organizer.

*Plan in advance for success.

*Get other people involved if necessary.

*Make follow-through a part of an individual or organizational vision.

*Do pre-week planning.

Apply the Power of Knowledge

Many of the qualities that make an effective leader also make an effective learner. Attributes like humility, preparedness, and having a hunger to learn are all important for applying the power of knowledge. In order to grow through knowledge, people can stimulate and exercise their minds, regularly assess external environments, and invite feedback.

To stimulate and exercise their minds, individuals could adopt changes that can affect where they will be in five years–for example, by:

*Reading at least one book per month.

*Investing three percent of their income in continuing education.

*Surrounding themselves with inspiring people.

Individuals should choose books, education, and people that will help them attain their visions of themselves in five years.

The only constant in life is change, and many changes make up the external environment that is outside of people’s control. It is wise to regularly assess this environment to see what changes have occurred or are likely to occur. Individuals and leaders should do this assessment quarterly, highlighting the potential changes that could have the greatest effect and developing action plans to respond to the changes.

Finally, inviting and accepting feedback is one of the best ways to gain knowledge. The continue-start-stop tool provides a structured way to solicit feedback and use it to make improvements.

Live in Peace and Balance

Approximately 30 to 40 percent of employees feel stressed or burned out by their jobs, a fact that cannot help but impact productivity. To combat the stress and turmoil of work, people can follow four steps to find peace: increasing balance, increasing peace through meditation, laughing more, and promoting positive thoughts.

Increasing balance is more difficult than it sounds; a large-scale survey showed that almost 64 percent of corporate leaders found dealing with conflicting priorities to be their biggest frustration. Such stressed individuals should assess their current life balance in order to understand where they should make changes. Shallenberger suggests using the circle of peace and balance to perform this assessment. A person divides a circle into six segments: physical and emotional, mental, financial, security and safety, social life and relationships, and spiritual. By assigning a number to his or her level of health in each of these segments, a person can see how well his or her own circle reflects the circle of peace and balance. Its shape indicates where an individual can make changes for greater balance.

Increasing peace through meditation does not mean retreating to a Zen mountainside for a week. It can be accomplished by simply taking a break to recharge for a few minutes during the day. Reaching a point of “task saturation”–that is, when tasks seem overwhelming and impossible to accomplish –is an important sign that it is time for a break. Five steps for simple meditation involve closing one’s eyes and relaxing, taking several deep breaths, imagining a safe and peaceful location, focusing on any segment of the circle of peace and balance to address concerns in that area, and taking as much time as a person needs.

Laughing often can help lead to balance by combating stress and fear and creating bonds with others. A well-timed joke can help bring people together, and those who can laugh at themselves do better at keeping stress at bay.

One of the most important ways for people to live in peace and balance is to love themselves. Studies have found that most people have negative thoughts 70 percent of the time. It is possible to turn these thoughts around using positive self-affirmations–positive phrases that people should repeat to themselves at least 20 times throughout the day.

Never Give Up

Individuals can follow all of the first 11 steps toward achieving their personal best, but if they give up they may never reach their goals. Most high achievers have experienced three to four major failures in their careers, but those failures have not ultimately kept them from success. In fact, failures can be instrumental in teaching important lessons and motivating people to do better the next time.

A person’s greatest enemy is often himself or herself. People must defeat the enemy within through hard work and action, and recognize the value of failure. Good leaders look back at failures to identify what they have taught and how they helped lead to success. Finally, inspiration is crucial for never giving up. An inspiring purpose helps to keep an end goal always in mind.

About anubhawalia

Anubha Walia, Executive Coach, Trainer, Facilitator & OD&L Professional is a prolific Human Process Interventionist, also specialises in Wellness coach carries 22+ years of rich experience, and has worked with top of the line blue-chip​ organization like Honeywell, ICICI Bank, Moody ICL Certification were she was heading ODL, Trainings & Quality verticals. Her areas of expertise include human process intervention, Organisation Development, Change engagement Learning, Team building & Recreation, Wellness & Yoga and Quality implementation.

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