Explain your leadership philosophy on a single sheet of paper

Mike Figliuolo, author of "One Piece of Paper"

Mike Figliuolo was tired of leadership constructs that resulted in cookie-cutter leaders. Using his idea that a leader must follow a philosophy that is truly his or hers, he began to teach others how to state their leadership values using maxims.

“Write down, on one sheet, 15 to 20 emotionally powerful statements or reminders of personal events that will serve to guide your behaviors on a daily basis,” says Figliuolo, managing director of thoughtLeaders LLC. “Your maxims will become your leadership conscience. They will help you make difficult decisions.”

To reach even more would-be leaders, he has written “One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership.”

Why do you feel the leadership maxim approach is effective?

What is different about the book is that it looks at leaders holistically, and it looks at four aspects of leadership to make sure you are well-rounded and you have integrity: leading yourself, leading the thinking, leading your people and leading a balanced life.

For many years, the standard was to pattern yourself after your boss. If extroverted new leaders try to model themselves after introverted predecessors, is it a train wreck waiting to happen?

Often. Leaders are going to have a different set of experiences that defines them and their philosophy. There’s really power in saying, ‘You can go ahead and be you.’ And that’s what authenticity is about. It’s being real and basing it on your experience.

One of your maxims is, ‘What would Nana [his grandmother] do?’ Give an example how that came into play.

Once, while in the military, I bartered through a gray market to replace a missing tool. I ignored, ‘What would Nana say?’ I might have learned better ways to resolve my situation. The only redeeming aspect is it regularly reinforces my belief in the strength of my maxims to help me make the right decisions regardless of the circumstances.

In the second case, I noticed a client’s error in a contract that would have paid me substantially more than was agreed. I asked myself, ‘What would Nana say?’ I told the client about the error. The long-term value of doing what Nana would say was far greater than the short-term benefit of some extra cash.

When choosing your maxims, how do you know if they are going to be workable?

There’s a little test of a maxim in each chapter that forces you to go back and say, ‘Is this maxim a solid one?’ If it doesn’t evoke that emotional, visceral reaction in you or you look at it and say, ‘That’s really not me,’ then you are on the wrong path because this whole method is all about saying who you really are. Getting back on track is so easy because, inherently, everybody already has all the answers. All the book does is give you a method to pull them out and articulate them.

What is the real benefit in writing down personal maxims?

If you want to really unlock your potential as a leader, you have to just share who you are. People don’t follow a title; they are going to follow an individual. It’s actually a good thing to be you. So if you want to be effective as a leader and build that trust with your team, they need to know who you are. Stop pretending … stop using words like synergy, leverage and optimize, and for crying out loud, tell your story!

How to reach: thoughtLeaders LLC, (804) 241-9757 or www.thoughtleadersllc.com