Developing a Leadership Philosophy

By Leboeuf, Maureen K. | Military Review, May/June 1999 | Go to article overview

Developing a Leadership Philosophy

Leboeuf, Maureen K., Military Review

IS A MEMORABLE DAY. The sun is shinning, there is a gentle breeze that causes the flags and their campaign ribbons to rustle, and the soldiers are standing tall in formation. A time-honored tradition is about to take place-a change of comand Thd orders are read, the colors are passed and a new leader takes charge of the organization.

More often than not, however, there are no formal ceremonies when an officer takes over a new position, yet the first order of business is always the same-the discussion of a leadership philosophy, usually accompanied by a "philosophy document." This "philosophy" ostensibly allows the supporting staff and soldiers to understand the leader's inner thoughts, beliefs and expectations for organizational performance.

We have all been in organizations where this scenario unfolds. Many times the leadership philosophy is hastily prepared. Quite often, leaders are in demanding jobs until they assume new positions and do not have the luxury of time for genuine reflection about their personal leadership philosophy. Most write some peripheral thoughts about leadership, beliefs and personal philosophy, discuss it with immediate subordinates and send their philosophy paper to elements within the organization.

While attending the US Army War College (AWC), Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to take a Philosophy of Leadership advance course, which included considerable discussion, reading and reflection on the subject. The students in the class represented a wide cross-section of the Armed Forces and included men and women, all services, minorities, combat, combat support and combat service support officers. All students in the class were assigned to follow-on brigade-level command or senior leadership staff positions. At the course conclusion, each officer was asked to write a personal leadership philosophy.

In writing this article, I obtained selections of leadership philosophy papers from the Philosophy of Command course for the past several years. I reviewed them to determine common themes that should be incorporated into my leadership philosophy. Virtually all future leaders agreed that vision, values, care for soldiers and families, leader development, managing change, diversity and a sense of humor were imperatives within a leadership philosophy. Although I read a host of articles, I selected the above elements as a framework for this article and suggest they should be the blueprint for every Army leader's personal leadership philosophy.

While the primary audience for this article is midlevel to senior leaders, all supervisors will find the information presented useful in developing their own personal leadership philosophy.

Why is a Philosophy of Leadership Important?

Philosophy is "the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge or conduct."1 In his discussion of values, author Scott W. Clarke captures the significance of a personal philosophy for the military leader. He indicates that philosophy is the attainment of an integrated, comprehensive view of life, of vital importance. He further relates that "values, ethics and virtues are actually secondary. . ." to the absolute necessity to couch these attributes within a personal philosophy.2 In other words, your personal philosophy provides a foundation for all other issues-it is your personal foundation or belief in human nature or behavior. As an example, we refer to an interview with Lieutenant General Robert F. McDermott, US Air Force, Retired, and retired chief executive officer (CEO), United Services Automobile Association (USAA). He indicated that his overarching personal leadership philosophy was based on the "Golden Rule"all values and ethical behavior stemmed from it. This simplistic personal philosophy served McDermott well for 25 years of military service in peace and war, and for 25 years as the head of USAA, a Fortune 500 company.3

Whether you select the Golden Rule or another philosophical approach, you must establish your overarching personal philosophy before you can extrapolate from it the framework of key issues, that follow. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Developing a Leadership Philosophy


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.