February 5, 2019

Your leadership manifesto: What it is and why you need one

Have you come to terms with who you are as a leader?

Writing a leadership manifesto may seem like a daunting task.  And you may wonder why you even need to think about this.  I would suggest that thinking intentionally about what leadership means to you — and what you are willing to commit to as a growing and learning leader — will produce rewards you can’t even imagine right now . It’s not simply a writing exercise.  It’s a self-reflection and thought exercise that forces you to come to terms with exactly how you are spending your energy, and why.

Several people have written about this idea.  There is a wonderful book called The Leadership Manifesto, by Bill Hicks, with eight disciplines for leadership.  Lolly Daskal is a highly respected leadership coach and blogger who has also written about this topic.  She writes:

“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.  It’s precisely that simple, and it’s also that complicated.  Leadership is a choice and a privilege, learn to embrace the greatness it can bestow upon you.”

Both of these frameworks are worth reading about, but how would you actually plan to write your own manifesto?

Create your own leadership manifesto

The word manifesto comes from the Latin word manifestum, which means, “to be clear or to make public.”  As I think of it, a leadership manifesto is your declaration, first to yourself and then to others, about what leadership is and means to you personally.  Here’s a five-step approach to creating yours.

Step 1:  Prepare for this task by thinking about the best leaders you know.  What makes them the best?  Is it about the qualities they demonstrate?  The habits they keep?  How do they treat others?  How do they treat themselves?  What do you know about what drives them?

Step 2:  Carve out some time to think — take a walk, sit in a quiet space, or do whatever helps you think clearly.  Allow yourself at least an hour, and longer if you like.

Step 3:  During this protected time, ask yourself three questions, and take some notes.

  • What are the qualities, habits and behaviors of leadership that matter to me?
  • Which of these am I practicing right now?
  • What actions am I willing to commit to that will enhance my practice of those qualities, habits and behaviors?

Step 4:  Allow some time for this information to percolate in your psyche and thought processes.  Give it at least a week.

Step 5:  Take another hour-long meeting with yourself to distill what you have learned from this process.  Use what you have learned to write at least 3 to 5 affirmative statements about how you want to be, and the habits and behaviors you want to exhibit that will demonstrate to others that you are a leader, and you take that role seriously.

You will find some affirmative statements like the ones I am envisioning in the resources referenced above.  Some examples from my own leadership manifesto are:

  • My actions toward myself and others will be authentic, grounded in my best understanding of who I am as a human being.
  • I take ownership of and responsibility for my actions.
  • How we treat each other matters.
  • A leader is a steward of resources — time, people, money, space, equipment, good will.  I can lose any of them at a moment’s notice, and the only one I can create of my own volition is good will.  (More about this here.)
  • I am committed to the fundamental task of leadership, which I see as helping others grow into the very best version of themselves they can be.
  • In any leadership role I may take on, my being there has a purpose that I accept and commit to.  It is my job to understand that purpose and to deliver the very best version of myself to realizing it.

[bctt tweet=”The process of developing a leadership manifesto is mostly an internal one. It requires self-reflection, a deep awareness of what drives your leadership, and a willingness and commitment to grow as a leader.” username=”MettaSolutions”] The benefits of the internal process are that it can help bring clarity to what you are doing, and can serve as a touchstone for you when you are in a difficult situation.

There is also a potential external process that may be beneficial.  As you work your internal process, you will develop that clarity, and you will find yourself natively articulating it to others when you are asked to take on a new role.  It can become a guiding set of principles for deciding whether to accept a role or a task.  It can also provide you a way to communicate with others about how and why you make difficult decisions.  It really becomes your own set of “first principles” and can serve as a reassuring list that you refine over time.

How do you articulate your leadership manifesto?

Please add your thoughts in the comment section below.

Last updated February 5, 2019

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