How I Put Principled Leadership Into Practice_David DeWolf_1200x675

How I Put Principled Leadership Into Practice

1024 576 David DeWolf

I wrote in a recent post about why I believe so strongly that a widescale recommitment to principled leadership is a must

Why is it a must? It’s the best way to build companies whose teams are united in passionately pursuing a common objective. I also believe that if you widen the aperture beyond the business world, a major shift toward principled leadership is the only way we’ll be able to deal with the many complex challenges of our time.  

Below are a few approaches I strive to put into practice each and every day so that there’s no ambiguity about what 3Pillar stands for. 

Disclaimer: I’m the CEO of the company, but leadership at 3Pillar is about much more than what I do or how I lead. 3Pillar has officially crossed the 2000-team member mark. We have a footprint in 9 countries. Most of our employees aren’t even in the same hemisphere as me, much less the same country. That means there are thousands of decisions being made every single day that I have absolutely zero visibility into or direct input on. And that is why I think it’s all the more important to imbue our values and beliefs into our culture. It’s one thing for me to live and promote our values. It’s something altogether more to have 2000 people doing the same, including the team members pictured above, who I recently had the opportunity to spend time with in Mexico.

So, how do we not just practice but also encourage and propagate principled leadership? These are a few ways. 

Communicate Your Core Values at Every Turn 

Your core values are your non-negotiables. If you’re communicating them effectively and often enough, everyone in the company should know them like the back of their hand. The values should shape their daily interactions with teammates, clients, and partners. It’s a leader’s job to repeat and communicate these core values over and over, in many different ways.

All new employees at 3Pillar receive a thorough introduction to our core values (Intrinsic Dignity, Open Collaboration, Continuous Improvement, and Outsized Impact) throughout their onboarding process. This is just the start of the many ways we continually reinforce our values and their importance.

The values are prominently featured on the walls of each of our offices worldwide. We have an awards program centered around our values that essentially runs year-round. In addition to recognizing those who are living embodiments of our values, which is hugely important, the awards continually remind our team of the core values we hold most dear. And, critically, I make it a point to try to call them out and personally praise folks when they actively live them to the extreme. I’ll of course also hold folks accountable if they do not.

Truly Engage With and Get to Know Your Team

One of the added benefits of these rewards programs for me is that I get to develop personal relationships with many of the exceptional people who are responsible for driving our organization forward. This is important because it is a constant reminder to put humanity back into business. It is so critical to remember that with every decision we make, it is people’s lives we’re dealing with.

I can’t stress enough the importance of getting to know those that you’re leading on a personal level. This is not to say become friends with everyone on your team. It is to say, take an interest in them as a person, learn about their background and their family, and get to know their unique talents and what motivates them. Whenever I’m spending time with anyone on our team, I’m trying to mentally file away tidbits of information that may be useful in the future. It’s my way of connecting dots, fostering collaboration, and working to get the absolute best out of our team.    

Give Your Team a North Star and Destination

Money isn’t a great motivator. Research cited in the Harvard Business Review says that “employees who are intrinsically motivated are three times more engaged than employees who are extrinsically motivated (such as by money).” The article further goes on to say, “Intrinsic motivation is also a stronger predictor of job performance than extrinsic motivation — so it is feasible to expect higher financial rewards to inhibit not only intrinsic motivation, but also job performance.”

My experience has borne this out many times over. People will run through a brick wall for something they A) know contributes to a greater cause, B) are skilled at, and C) enjoy doing. It’s your responsibility to give your team a purpose — point them toward a North Star — by painting your purpose for existence, how you contribute to the world, and your vision of where the company is going. Only then can you tap into their skills to help you get there. 

Wrapping it Up: Why Principled Leadership Matters

Principled leadership matters, in short, because I believe it’s the only way to bounce back from the general morass we seem to find ourselves in as a country. These are peculiar times that are filled with uncertainty and anxiety about the future. It’s not healthy to be in a place where 57% of people believe others just look out for themselves. Principled leadership is what we need to restore our faith in one another, recommit to a spirit of collaboration, and get back to work — and working — together.