By Thom Mandl, Guest Contributor

Simple and Powerful

I was recently asked during an interview to describe my thinking on leadership. While there could be numerous responses to a question like this, a handful of time-tested principles came to mind based upon my leadership journey.

None of these originated with me, nor are they difficult to understand. However, the consistent application of these simple truths can dramatically improve your leadership effectiveness – for the good of those you lead and the success of your organization.

My list of simple and powerful leadership principles are:

  1. Lead With Humility
  2. Get The Right People
  3. Set Clear Expectations
  4. Coach Your Team
  5. Reward High Performance
  6. Deal With Poor Performance

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Leadership Principles

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

1. Lead With Humility

Leaders must be personally humble, yet ambitious for the organization.

You may recognize this principle from Jim Collins’ business classic, Good to Great. Throughout history, the greatest leaders were those who exhibited deep personal humility combined with a strong drive for a purpose outside themselves. Humility requires vulnerability and engenders the trust of those you lead.

Humility is thinking soberly about yourself, embracing both your personal strengths and limitations. Humble people exude confidence, not arrogance, and treat everyone with respect – regardless of position. They are highly teachable, and quick to celebrate the strengths and accomplishments of others.

Combined with humility, leaders must also be driven by the mission of the organization and the needs of the people they are leading – not by their own advancement or personal benefit. People will readily follow such a leader and do their very best to further the cause. By contrast, managers who are driven solely by personal reward will, at best, have compliant, unmotivated followers.

Combining humility and leadership gives us our definition of lead with humility: Treating everyone with respect, demonstrating quiet confidence without arrogance, and seeking to learn from success and failure.

One final comment about this leadership principle: It does not just apply to people with formal leadership titles. Since leadership is simply influence, every position is a “leadership” position and, as such, the combination of humility and ambition should ideally be true of people at every level within an organization.

Lead With Humility

“When things go wrong, humble leaders admit to their mistakes and take responsibility. When things go right, they shine the spotlight on others.” – Jim Collins

2. Get The Right People

Get the right people on the team and be sure they are in the right positions.

This is another principle from Good to Great by Jim Collins. The “right” people are those who share the core values of the organization and possess the knowledge, skills, and drive to be successful in their role.

Hiring on the basis of values is critical. While knowledge and skills can often be taught, altering a person’s values is very difficult.

Hire first on values, then on job related knowledge and skills.

Beyond the right values, a leader must ensure each person is in a position which will leverage their unique strengths. Doing otherwise will lead to suboptimal performance and an unsatisfied employee.

In his excellent book, Traction, Gino Wickman provides a helpful tool called the People Analyzer to help clarify whether you have the right people and if they are in the right seats.

Get The Right People

3. Set Clear Expectations

Communicate clear expectations, both organizationally and to each team member.

While this principle seems incredibly straight-forward, many organizations unintentionally keep their associates in the dark. To build a healthy, high performing team, each team member must clearly understand the vision, mission, values, and strategies of the organization. This allows team members to act creatively and cohesively with minimal direction. Patrick Lencioni, in his book, The Advantage, lays out a model to achieve clarity within an organization.

From an employee standpoint, clear behavioral and performance expectations are equally critical to achieve excellent results and fulfilled employees. Don’t let your people guess what’s important. Ensure they understand the behaviors and results that are expected.

Leaders should refrain, however, from dictating how people should do their work. The late Stephen Covey effectively illustrated this point with his “green & clean” story in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. His son, the protagonist in this story, later added “You cannot hold people responsible for results if you supervise their methods.”

Effective leaders ensure their people understand the desired behaviors and results, but trust them to use their unique talents, experience, and creativity to get the job done.

Set Clear Expectations

4. Coach Your Team

Effective leaders provide regular coaching to their people for their professional development and for improved organizational results.

Coaching includes helping people set goals, as well as, providing praise and constructive feedback along the way.

Practically, most of the coaching should be provided through informal mentoring and weekly one-to-one meetings – not “unloaded” during an annual evaluation.

Ongoing coaching is also key to the development of future leaders and is prized by all employees. Coaching communicates care and is often reciprocated by great results, as well as, high levels of employee engagement and retention.

Coach Your Team

“The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people.” – Ken Blanchard

5. Reward High Performance

Reward high performance through meaningful recognition.

Some leaders underestimate how important it is to provide regular and meaningful recognition to their people when they deliver exemplary performance. Everyone needs encouragement and to hear they are making a difference. It can be making a difference for a customer, colleague, or any other stakeholder.

In addition to encouraging the high performer, calling out great performance also reinforces the desired behaviors and results to the rest of the organization.

While regular and specific feedback is the breakfast of champions, leaders should also reinforce their verbal recognition with appropriate monetary means. Examples range from a gift card to a bump in compensation.

Reward High Performance

“If you are a leader, you should never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it – young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous – is changed by it.” – John C. Maxwell

6. Deal With Poor Performance

Effective leaders do not tolerate poor performance.

While rewarding high performance is enjoyable for a leader, addressing poor behavior or results is not – especially if the leader cares deeply for the employee and their welfare. However, it is a big disservice to the employee, their coworkers, and the organization to not take action.

The leader, of course, should first seek to improve the employee’s performance. But if this does not occur in a reasonable period of time, the employee should be reassigned or dismissed.

If the employee embodies the company’s values, but does not have the skills and knowledge to be successful, the leader should try to find another position within the organization which fits the employee’s strengths. If no such position exists, the employee must be kindly and generously released from the organization.

While painful at the time, I am convinced this is the most compassionate decision for everyone involved.

Deal With Poor Performance


Better leadership can make a big difference.

The six principles, I have described, are simply fundamental truths which should guide your daily actions:

  1. Lead With Humility
  2. Get The Right People
  3. Set Clear Expectations
  4. Coach Your Team
  5. Reward High Performance
  6. Deal With Poor Performance

Much more could be said about effective leadership, but these time-tested principles are a good place to start. If properly understood and applied, they will help you to become a better leader for the benefit of the people and the organization you serve – and reward you with the joy of knowing you are making a difference.

6x Leadership Principles

“When the leader gets better, everyone gets better.” – Craig Groeschel

About Thom Mandl

Thom is an operations executive with over 20 years of experience in manufacturing. His early career experience at two global market leaders, Ford and P & G, helped him gain valuable experience and skills which he continues to successfully apply at smaller manufacturers in a wide variety of industries.

Thom has built a record of success in taking companies to the next level, by creating a high-performing culture while implementing best practices in strategy, business development, supply chain, and operations.

Contact: Thom

See: LinkedIn profile

Thom Mandl

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Good to Great by Jim Collins

Traction by Gino Wickman

The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard

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