Principle Centered Leadership

Principle Centred Leadership

“A principle is a natural law like gravity. If you drop something, gravity controls. If I don’t tell you the truth, you won’t trust me; that’s a natural law.”

Stephen Covey

When we trace the decisions we make and analyse what was behind them, very often we can detect “centres of influence”. Centres of influence are forces that guide us towards thinking and acting in a certain way and more often than not although many centres influence us, each of us has inclination to be more influenced by certain areas over others. Stephen Covey in his “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” presents that we have the following centres that influence us most: 


Someone who is “friend centred” is likely more often to heed to the advice of their best friends over that of family or colleagues and will likely, consciously or not, seek to align their opinions to that of their main friendship groups. Likewise someone who is more “work” focused is likely by default to seek to understand what happens around them through their work and will often end up projecting that in their opinions to others.

Everyone has a centre that influences them most.

Our need to belong and connect (see Maslow’s hierachy of need) makes us shift towards the the people or groups who are most important to us and with time we will often reflect these bonds in the values we live our life through. For example someone who is religious will naturally often align their own personal values to that of their religion and judge situations which occur unknowingly by this preset value system. Likewise someone who is pleasure centred will likely form a value system to back up the fact that by nature they see pleasure as the most important thing by which to judge what matters in life.

Often people form their values to align with the centres that influence them the most.

The problem with allowing our values – formed from our centres – to dictate how we see things is that they will not always align with the values of other people which are being influenced by different centres. In our own life it is often possible to surround ourselves with people who have similar values to our-self but at work this is not a luxury most people have. This is one reason why understanding centres is important, especially for leaders who manage staff from many different backgrounds, ages and personalities. Understanding a staff member’s centre, helps in knowing how to personally manage them. Most notably a person’s centre is often both the source of their desire to bond with other’s and of their desire to reject or shut out others with different values. Very often a clash of personalities is actually a close of centres, i.e two or more staff having different perspectives on something because of the different centre influencing their values. Centres also matter when addressing the WIIFM factor as people appreciate the rewards that most address their central values.


Principle centred leadership is when a leader does not give in to their own or others centres but rather chooses a path or direction free of any centre influence. Leaders should aim for a principle centred leadership style because they do not have the luxury to have only one value system when molding a team of different personalities and backgrounds together. “Truth” as Covey argues in his 7 Habits is sometimes clouded by our centre driven values but “principles”, that have no one centre, are not.

“Truth” can be clouded by a centre values system but a principle, free of any one centre, is not”.

For example if you got chatting late at night to a man on a train who told you that earlier that evening he had been about to go to the theatre when he got a call from his boss asking him to go into work, you would likely form a preset opinion on hearing only a part of the story. This initial opinion judging only part of the information would have been influenced by your centre value system. If you were more “spouse” or “family” orientated, it is likely you would already sympathize with the man and instinctively think it were unreasonable for him to be called into work when he had other plans. Whereas if you were “work” or “money” orientated, it is possible you would already be thinking this is just something someone has to do, if they want to get ahead and achieve more at work. Both opinions would be formed without the whole picture and both formed by our deep rooted value system but neither is necessary fair to the situation.

On hearing part of a story, we already form opinions based on our deep rooted values formed from our centres.

If on hearing more of the story, it turned out the boss himself had a sick wife and this was the reason he needed to call in the staff member, the spouse centred influence may no longer be clear cut to show sympathy one way. Likewise if it turned out the boss was always calling up his staff and didn’t work hard himself, you might likewise question at this point whether following your work instinct was always the right thing to do. This is where principle centred leadership comes in, a manager should hold off being instinctive in judging things on part of the story as doing so will prevent their own instinctive value system from pre-judging the situation. A great leader should rather aim to seek to understand first and judge second and by doing so they will be principle centred and make the right principled call for the situation. Principle centred leaders bind different personalities together and they give a fair framework for all parties to trust and work within. Principle centre leaders inspire others to believe in things bigger than themselves and create an environment where fairness is a constant.

Principle centred leaders bind many different groups of people together.


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