Counterintuitive (But Reliable) Leadership Principles

Chuck Wardell

Leaders today must be more engaged and collaborative with colleagues, more in touch with employees, more conscientious of what they do and say, more concerned about diversity and fairness, and more accountable for the security, honesty, and welfare of their companies than in the past. This new landscape requires leaders to question their intuitions, while sticking with tried-and-true principles.

Witt/Kieffer Chair and CEO Charles W.B. Wardell, III recently shared 9 Leadership Principles You Can Believe In with Chief Executive Magazine. He acknowledges that his list of leadership principles might seem counterintuitive by today’s standards – like his suggestion that instincts should be met with skepticism rather than trust, since our “instincts” are actually habits that were formed over decades in many different environments.

Though counterintuitive, these principles will serve leaders well, Wardell believes. The following are a few examples:

  • Embrace failure. “People need to fail to succeed—to grow and know what not to do,” Wardell writes.
  • Don’t try to be smarter than everyone else. “Being a leader is not about being the smartest, bravest or boldest,” he writes. It has more to do with being “directionally correct” and surrounding oneself with good people.
  • Don’t make a lot of rules. “Standards—established and modeled by the leadership team—are more important than rules,” says Wardell. “Rules do not win respect.”
  • Don’t delegate responsibility. “Delegate tasks but keep the responsibility,” he believes.
  • Have fun. Too many leaders embrace what Wardell calls the “martyrdom of effort.” Leadership is not a curse, he believes. It should be a joy.

For all nine principles, read the full article here.


By Paul Thomas, Strategic Communications Leader

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