Leadership Principles -- How Do They Build Motivation and Commitment?

Back in March, David Sharpley published a new book entitled Leadership Principles and Purpose: Developing Leadership Effectiveness and Future-Focused Capability, which provides a fresh perspective on leadership and the steps required to achieve high performance. It explores how we create purpose by moving from vision and values through principles to action. When I spoke with David this month, I asked him directly: "How do principles shape competencies and build motivation and commitment?" Here is his complete answer: 

We hear executives talk about "vision" and "values," but there’s less mention of the principles that define how activities are completed. These provide points of reference and set boundaries. They also underpin competencies linked to high performance. Higher-order principles influence people’s expectations of what is fair and reasonable. They help clarify how leaders create enabling conditions that enhance motivation, commitment, and shared purpose.  

Self Determination Theory (SDT) offers insight into why principles matter. The SDT Model reveals that everyone has an innate need for positive, trust-based Relationships. We also seek to develop the Competence that fuels meaningful activity and builds motivation. Autonomy adds to self-direction, responsibility, and purpose. Underlying needs are also reflected in people’s desire for social cohesion and stability. Significant principles therefore relate to Justice, Equality, Compassion, and Accountability. Principles are closely aligned with ethical values but expressed in the form of rules, protocols, and norms.  

Clearly stated principles ensure consistency of approach, support cascaded leadership, and define the work culture. Effective leaders build on principles that will develop capability and create shared purpose. They appreciate that discretionary effort is influenced by a range of factors, which include opportunities for self-directed, meaningful activity. Significant, Superordinate Principles strengthen trust-based relationships and motivation. They help build commitment, which is the emotional connection and identification people feel towards the organization. It is enhanced when people feel valued and there are opportunities for personal development (e.g. "my manager supports my development"). Commitment helps maintain motivation when we are faced with the inevitable setbacks that undermine progress.  

Over time, authentic leaders internalize important principles, including an emphasis on transparency, equality, and accountability. Clear principles increase personal conviction, but also our willingness to develop capability in others. Acting on the basis of higher-order principles conveys integrity and establishes a clear rationale for effective action, which adds to the leader's credibility. Principles have a significant role in building and maintaining people's motivation and commitment. They help leaders create shared purpose, develop effective systems, and achieve more meaningful connections with others.

What do you think of David's perspective? What is the state of leadership in your organization? Do the principles stated and practiced build motivation and commitment?

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