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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Principle-Centered Leadership

I finished the book in October 2022. I recommend this book 4/10.

The author of 7 Habits of Effective People, what is mentioned throughout this book, Stephen Covey, shares his leadership perspectives. Leadership deals with direction—ensuring the ladder is leaning against the right wall. Management deals with speed—the idea of how fast we can climb the ladder.

Get your copy of the book here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • In school, many of us procrastinate and then successfully cram for the test. But does cramming work on a farm? Can you go two weeks without milking the cow and then get out there and milk like crazy? Can you "forget" to plant in the spring or goof off all summer and then hit the ground real hard in the fall to bring in the harvest? We might laugh at such ludicrous approaches in agriculture, but then in the academic environment, we might cram to get the grades and degrees we need to get the jobs we want, even if we fail to get a good general education.

  • The only thing that endures over time is the law of the farm: I must prepare the ground, put in the seed, cultivate it, weed it, water it, then gradually nurture growth and development to full maturity. So also in a marriage or in helping a teenager through a difficult identity crisis—there is no quick fix, where you can just move in and take everything right with a positive mental attitude and a bunch of success formulas. The law of the harvest governs.

  • Two Harvard professors, Roger Fisher, and William Ury, in their book Getting to Yes, outline a whole new approach to negotiation. Instead of assuming two opposing positions—"I want that window open." "No, closed." "No, open."—with occasional compromise (half-open half the time), they saw the possibility of synergy. "Why do you want it open?" "Well, I like the fresh air." "Why do you want it closed?" "I don't like the draft." "What can we do that would give the fresh air without the draft?" Now, two creative people who have respect for each other and who understand each other's needs might say, "Let's open the top part of the window. Let's turn on the air-conditioning." They seek new alternatives because they are not defending positions.

  • Goethe put it this way: "Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is; treat a man as he can and should be, and he will become as he can and should be."This isn't to say that we trust him unconditionally, but it does mean that we treat him respectfully and trust him conditionally.

  • Abundance Mentality. Our thinking is that there is plenty out there for everybody. This abundance mentality flows out of a deep sense of personal worth and security. It results in sharing recognition, profits, and responsibility. It opens up creative new options and alternatives. It turns to joy and fulfillment outward. It recognizes unlimited possibilities for positive interaction, growth, and development.

  • For many managers today, breaking the "human barrier" or status quo performance is as difficult as breaking the "sound barrier" was for aeronautical engineers four decades ago. Why? Because people are often seen as limitations, if not liabilities, rather than advantages and assets. Thus low performance is often institutionalized in the structure and systems, procedures, and processes, of the organization. Some executives pilot their single-engine, propeller-driven firms at a slow speeds and low altitudes, cocksure that anything smacking of high performance would cause them to lose control and crash.

  • Highly effective people carry their agenda with them. Their schedule is their servant, not their master. They organize weekly and adapt daily. However, they are not capricious in changing their plan. They exercise discipline and concentration and do not submit to moods and circumstances. They schedule blocks of prime time for important planning, projects, and creative work. They work on less important and less demanding activities when their fatigue level is higher. They avoid handling paper more than once and avoid touching paperwork unless they plan to take action on it.

  • If we do the following five things, we will have the strength to be strong in hard moments, in testing times:

    • Never make a promise we will not keep.

    • Make meaningful promises, resolutions, and commitments to do better and to be better—and share these with a loved one.

    • Use self-knowledge and be very selective about the promises we make.

    • Consider promises as a measure of our integrity and faith in ourselves.

    • Remember that our personal integrity or self-mastery is the basis for our success with others.

  • Here are ten suggestions for processes and principles that will increase a leader's honor and power with others:

    • Persuasion, which includes sharing reasons and rationale, making a strong case for your position or desire while maintaining genuine respect for followers' ideas and perspectives, telling why as well as what, and committing to staying in the communication process until mutually beneficial and satisfying outcomes are reached.

    • Patience with the process and the person. In spite of the failings, shortcomings, and inconveniences created by followers, and your own impatience and anticipation for achieving your goals, maintain a long-term perspective and stay committed to your goals in the face of short-term obstacles and resistance.

    • Gentleness, not harshness, hardness, or force-fullness, when dealing with vulnerabilities, disclosures, and feelings followers might express.

    • Teachableness, which means operating with the assumption that you do not have all the answers or all the insights and valuing the different viewpoints, judgments, and experiences followers may have.

    • Acceptance, withholding judgment, giving the benefit of the doubt, requiring no evidence or specific performance as a condition for sustaining high self-worth, making them your agenda.

    • Kindness, sensitive caring, thoughtful, remembering the little things (which are the big things) in relationships.

    • Openness, Acquiring accurate information and perspectives about followers as they can become while being worthy of respect for what they are now, regardless of what they own, control, or do, giving full consideration to their intentions, desires, values, and goals rather than focusing exclusively on their behavior.

    • Compassionate, confrontation, acknowledging error, mistakes, and the need for followers to make "course corrections" in a context of genuine care, concern, and warmth, making it safe for followers to risk.

    • Consistency, so what your leadership style is not a manipulative technique that you bring into play when you don't get your way, are faced with crisis or challenge, or are feeling trapped; rather, this becomes a set of values, a personal code, a manifestation of your character, a reflection of who you are and who you are becoming.

    • Integrity, honestly matching words and feeling with thoughts and actions, with no desire other than for the good of others, without malice or desire to deceive, take advantage, manipulate, or control; constantly reviewing your intent as you strive for congruence.

  • How do we create a culture where management treats employees as customers and uses them as local experts?

  • Seven universal problems:

    • No shared vision and values, either the organization have no mission statement or there is no deep understand of and commitment to the mission at all levels at the organization.

    • No strategies path: either the strategy is not well developed or it ineffectively express the mission statement and/or fails to meet the wants and needs and realities of the stream.

    • Poor alignment: bad alignment between structure and shared values, between vision and systems; the structure and systems of the organization poorly serve and reinforce the strategic paths.

    • Wrong style: the management philosophy is either incongruent with shared vision and values, or the style inconsistently embodies the vision and values of the mission statement.

    • Poor skills: style does not match skills, or managers lack the skills they need to use an appropriate style.

    • Low trust: staff has low trust, a depleted emotional bank account, and that low trust results in closed communication, little problem-solving, and poor cooperation and teamwork.

    • No integrity: values do not equal habits; there is no correlation between what I value and believe and what I do.

  • In a win-win agreement, people evaluate themselves. Since they have a clear, up-front understanding of what results are expected and what criteria are used to assess their performance, they are in the best position to evaluate themselves. The old notion is that the manager evaluates the performance of his people, sometimes using a secret set of subjective criteria that he springs on them at the end of a specified work period. This, of course, is absolutely insulting to people, which is why some managers do not have a good performance appraisal. Unless expectations are clarified and commitments made up front, people can expect performance appraisals to be difficult, embarrassing, and sometimes downright insulting.

  • I highly recommend the communication process outlined by Roger Fischer and William Ury in their book, Getting to Yes. It's a sensible process for making expectations explicit and arriving at a mutually rewarding agreement. Consider again the four basic principles:

    • Separate the people from the problem.

    • Focus on interests, not positions.

    • Invent options for mutual gain.

    • Insist on using objective criteria.

  • In forming win-win performance agreements, keep following principles in mind:

    • Specify desired results, but don't supervise methods and means—otherwise, you'll be buried in management minutiae, and your span of control will be severely restricted.

    • Go heavy on guidelines, light on procedures, so that as circumstances change, people have the flexibility to function, exercising their own initiative.

    • Mention all available resources within the organizations as well as outside networks.

    • Involve people in setting the standards or criteria of acceptable and exceptional performance.

    • Maintain trust and use discernment, more than so-called objective or quantitative measurements, to assess results.

    • Reach an understanding of what positive and negative consequences might follow achieving or failing to achieve desired results.

    • Make sure the performance agreement is reinforced by organizational structure and systems to stand the test of time.

  • To see organizations through the agriculture paradigm is to see them as living, growing things made up of living growing people. Living things are not immediately "fixed" by replacing nonworking parts; they are nurtured over time to produce desired results. Desired results in the organization are created not by the mechanic but by the gardener. The gardener knows that life is within the seed. Although it is impossible to make the seed grow, the gardener can select the best seed and then use "and" logic to create the conditions—correct soil temperature, adequate sunshine, water, fertilizer, weeding, cultivation, and time—that maximize growth.

  • At the heart of empowerment:

    • Win-Win Agreements

    • Character

    • Self-Supervision

    • Organizational Control

    • Skills

    • Helpful Systems and Structures

  • These six conditions nurture empowerment. Although one person cannot create effective positive change by "fixing" another's broken character or "replacing" a malfunctioning skill, there are specific things leaders can do within their circle of influence to improve the conditions that lead to empowerment in any living, growing organization:

    • Take inventory and evaluate personal and organizational effectiveness in each of the six areas.

    • Focus on creating change in personal character and skills and then expand to interdependent areas of influence.

    • Start the process of creating win-win agreements with supervisors and subordinates.

    • Work to create and strengthen supportive systems and structures within the organization.

    • Teach, exemplify, and reinforce.

  • It takes an exceptional chief executive to expose himself voluntarily to external scrutiny and to set up information systems that make him accountable to the other stakeholders. One such executive is Ken Melrose, CEO of Toro. He has put a chart outside his office because he wants people to see how he's doing against certain objectives. By measuring and charting his performance, he makes himself accountable and motivates himself to improve. If you measure it and post it, you will improve it.

  • How to get completed staff work P.240:

    • First, provide a clear understanding of the desired results.

    • Second, give clear sense of what level of initiative people have.

    • Third, clarify assumptions.

    • Fourth, provide those people charged to do completed staff work with as much time, resource, and access as possible.

    • Fifth, set a time and place to presenting and reviewing the completed staff work.

  • Leadership deals with direction—with making sure that the ladder is leaning against the right wall. Management deals with speed. To double one's speed in the wrong direction, however, is the very definition of foolishness. Leadership deals with vision—with keeping the mission in sight—and with effectiveness and results. Managers deals with establishing structure and systems to get those results. It focuses on efficiency, cost-benefits analysis, logistics, methods, procedures, and policies. Leadership focuses on the top line. Management focuses on the bottom line. Leadership derives its power from values and correct principles. Management organizes resources to serve selected objectives to produce the bottom line.

  • Managers looks through the glasses that does the work, but leadership looks at the lens and says, "Is this the right frame of reference?"

  • How might you transform a swamp—a bad situation or condition you face—into a lovely oasis? What do you do to transform a swamp into an oasis? It is the results of several smaller transformations. First, your organization should be a farm, not a school. It should be centered on natural laws and enduring principles because those laws are going to operate regardless. You can't transform a politicized swamp into a total quality culture unless and until you build basic habits of personal character and interpersonal relations based on principles; otherwise, you will not have the foundation to make quality and other reform initiatives work.

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