While in High School and College, I worked for a construction company during summer and other school breaks. Apart from the gains of making money and getting a workout, the best part about that job was my first trip to the tool aisle. Off I went to grab the biggest tool belt I could find and then, like a kid in a candy store, pulled every item I thought I would need. My Dad and Grandfather had tools I could have used, but I was more than happy to disregard their old and worn tools for the new ones I thought I would need. While I had some great tools, unfortunately for the houses I was working on, I still didn’t have the first idea on how to build a house. I had watched the patriarchs of my family do it before, so I assumed all I needed was the right tools and I would be fine… I was wrong.
In leadership, we repeat this mistake over and over again. We go after every tool that is well marketed and promising to be the next greatest thing–assuming that because we have the tools and paid for the certificates, we now have what it takes to lead.
In home building, the foundation is critical to every other aspect of what gets built upon it. In leadership, the foundation to every leader is the principles that govern them – not the fancy tools they wield to every person they’re trying to impress.
When speaking about the Shingo model, Robert Miller and his team speak about principles in this way, “One of the most powerful aspects of principles is their ability to predict outcomes. Principles govern the outcome or consequence of the behavioral choices we make. The closer our actual behavior aligns with the ideal behavior that is linked to the principle, the greater the likelihood the outcomes of our behavior can be predicted… A culture where every employee understands and is committed to principle-based behavior will be a culture with a very high likelihood of achieving predictably excellent results.”
Next time you grab the newest leadership tool, make sure you give attention to the foundation of the person holding it. Principles must govern the actions of that user, or that power tool could do more physical harm than the relational good it was intended for.