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leadership principles

Here are my leadership principles as a millennial leader. 

In addition, further below, you can find the great leadership principles I have uncovered while working with an ex-Amazonian.
See below here.

  1. Above it all, EMPATHY. Most of my leadership principles are tied to empathy. To me, leading with empathy is the only way to lead. This means to lead while understanding the context, the experiences, the needs of others, their thoughts and feelings. Leading with empathy allows people to feel safe, it allows me to be more personable and accessible, it helps build trust, it helps me empower the team, it fuels collaboration, it allows me to better understand the root cause of issues, it can help me guide better my team members and it enables me to build stronger relationships with my team. All principles that follow are actually enabled by leading with empathy.

  2. I am myself at work. I don’t pretend to be someone else at work. I am just me with all that it entails. I have shared my successes and my vulnerabilities with my team and colleagues. I don’t hide, I am just human like everyone else. When I first became a manager, I tried to be more serious, focus only on work and not talk about my personal life. That was not a success! I became confused about who I was and I started doubting all my decisions. Being solely focus on work and not being personal with people is simply not who I am… I am a person who likes to get personal and I do so at work and outside of work. I share family anecdotes, I talk about the struggles I faced while being on maternity leave and I discuss the latest Netflix tv shows. Most of my employees follow me on social media and see my life outside work unfolds.

  3. Everyone matters. I spend a good deal of time with each member of my team individually. Understanding who they are, how they work, what motivates them and what they fear is critical. By knowing who they are, I can guide and coach them better. I can help them shape their role to their benefit and enable them to work in ways that help them unleash their potential. I can’t stress this enough. Everyone is different, everyone has different needs and as I manager I believe it’s my responsibility to understand where and how my employees are at their best.

  4. Purpose is essential. Not every task and responsibilities will change the world but I believe it is critical for everyone to feel a sense of purpose at work. Whether purpose is professional growth, being a reliable team member or delivering on time, purpose can take any shape and form for individuals. I try hard to make sure that everyone in the team feels a sense of purpose in the work they do and that this is tailored to both their tasks and who they are as individuals.

  5. People matter more than deliverables. My team’s well-being and psychological safety matters more than deliverables. I think it’s critical to put people first. When people feel safe and are in a trusting environment, they thrive and deliver. People are always first, deliveries come after!

  6. Trust is a must. Trust is the foundation for creating a good team. Trust needs to exist not just with me, but also between members of my team and it is my responsibility to ensure that trust is carried across.

  7. Being a manager means to be a coach, a mentor and a support system. As a people leader, my role is not to give people tasks, keep them in check and make sure they deliver. Of course, there is a bit of that, but that isn’t the most important part. Being a people leader is about coaching, mentoring and supporting my team when they face challenges, adversity and difficult projects. It’s also my responsibility to celebrate with them their successes.

  8. Humility is key. As a manager it’s important to me to show humility. When I am wrong, I am wrong and when I don’t know, I don’t know and it’s ok. I have learned with time that my team trusts me more because I can show my vulnerabilities and my humanity.

  9. Belonging is fundamental. Creating a sense of belonging allows the team to work better together and be a solid unit where trust and care for one another blossoms. I am a great believer in tribal leadership and seek to create a tribe with my team at work. As my favorite quote on belonging says “diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance and belonging is dancing like nobody's watching.” My ultimate goal is to make sure everyone belongs.

  10. Feedback is a two-way street. I try to offer feedback to the members of my team as often as I can, but this is not a one-way street. I ask my team for feedback. By making feedback a two-way street, feedback becomes a fundamental part of the team’s culture, it makes everyone more open to receiving feedback as everyone knows they can also give feedback to others. Finally, making feedback a two-way street helps me grow as a people leader as my team tells me what I do well and where I need to improve.

  11. Empowering others. Anyone in my team can take the lead. I am not the ultimate decision maker on everything and I let others take the lead, make decisions and run with projects. This is key to establish trust and enable professional growth.

  12. I am never the smartest person in the room. I never want to be the smartest person in the room. I expect each individual in my team to be better than me in their area of ownership. My role is to offer guidance, remove roadblocks, take care of stakeholder management and support everyone to succeed.

  13. Everyone can speak up, everyone has a say and everyone can share their ideas at any time.

  14. Continuous learning. Life is a learning journey and work should be exactly that. Continuous learning is critical to me. This doesn’t mean that I send everyone to training and courses all the time. Learning can be so many things. Learning to lead, learning to make decisions, learning to challenge others, those are skills everyone can learn. As a people leader, it is my responsibility to encourage and support my team to continuously learn and to be challenged out of their comfort zone towards new opportunities that will help them grow.

  15. Work is a two-way relationship. A relationship with an employer is a two-way street. When members of my team make a great effort, work endless hours, such behaviors should be recognized, rewarded and/or compensated. No one should ever feel being taken advantage of at work by their manager or employer. There is no trust nor safety when you feel you have to watch your back and no one should feel that way 8h per day while working.

  16. I love a flat structure, it enables us to work as a unit and allows my team to make decisions in their areas of expertise.

  17. Collaboration is an enabler. It isn’t always easy, when everyone has their own area of responsibility, to ensure a good collaboration. Therefore, I made it a non-negotiable principle to team up members of the team on projects. This allows my team to create stronger relationships, but also to leverage on other people’s skills and expertise. Additionally, working with peers who tackle tasks and projects differently sparks innovation and allows people to see things in a new light. To me collaboration is key and critical to spur growth.

  18. Work-life balance. I personally don’t like the term work-life balance. Why are work and life presented as two parts of the equation? Isn’t life all of life including work? I am a firm believer in life balance meaning that everyone should have the right balance of work and non-work time based on individual needs. Some people, me to name an example, love to work a lot. That being said, I can’t apply this preference to everyone and ensuring everyone in the team has the right life balance is key for me.

  19. Entrepreneurial spirit. I am lucky enough to work in an organisation where entrepreneurial spirit is valued and this is something I personally really cherish. I believe that through this mindset, new ideas can emerge, business issues can be tackled and individuals can learn new things and grow.

  20. Personal and professional growth. Seeing my employees develop and grow is my greatest reward. There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing my team develop. As a people leader I adore seeing my team’s comfort zone expand, struggle of the past become skills and for team members to step up to the plate and take on new responsibilities. At the end of the day, that’s the best part of my job!

Ultimately, none of my principles are revolutionary. As I read them on paper, I find them quite unoriginal on their own. That being said, I think the key lies in applying all of them, all the time. As a millennial leader, I find it critical to lead with empathy and to put people before deliverables. I find it critical to understand each person I work with so that I can support both their personal and professional growth in the best way possible. Every person at work has a distinct personality, distinct needs, goals, skills and fears. By taking the time to understand each individual, we can tailor their role and responsibilities to create positions where they can be motivated, thrive and grow. We will spend more than 70.000 hours in our lives at work, wouldn't it be great to make sure the majority of that time is spent feeling good and feeling like our contribution matters? To make this happen we need to lead with empathy, we need to create a work environment where it is safe to express vulnerabilities and concerns and where people matter more than deliverables.

As millennials become the dominant part of the workforce and as Gen Z slowly starts to take part in the labor market, the need for more empathetic leadership is rising. As per my observations, the younger generations don’t understand the traditional corporate leadership style and are not drawn to it. They seek to be seen, they seek to be heard, they seek purpose and they want to be led with empathy. I firmly believe that we need more modern corporate leadership styles and as Scorpions said in their famous song, I feel a wind of change coming.

In addition to the above, I have learned a few new principles working closely with an ex-Amazonian. Great tips below!

  1. Customer obsession: Leaders start with the customer and work backwards.
    For a very long-time, I firmly believed I was customer focused. I believed that what I did was always with the customer in mind. That being said, over the last few months, I have come to realize my belief to be false. I had the right intent all along, I really wanted to be customer centric, but I realize now that I didn’t really know how. It was not a problem of intent, but an issue of mindset.

    Over the last few months, I started learning a new way to guide me towards customer centricity and in retrospect, it’s so simple, I don’t know why I didn't think about it before: start with the customer and work backwards… It’s that simple… in theory.

    In practice, starting with the customer and working backwards is really hard. Really really hard. I have to constantly remind myself to start there. What is the customer thinking, what is the customer facing, what is the customer issue here, etc. And only when I know what the customer’s pain is do I start thinking of what I can do. And when I say that I start thinking about what I can do, I don’t mean that I start looking at tools, systems or products we have already available off the shelf. No. I mean that I start thinking about what would be the best way to solve the customer’s problem regardless of the solutions we have already available. This is hard as I need to constantly remind myself not to look at solutions available around me first, but really think of the customer first and then what solution would be best. That’s how we start with the customer and work backwards… it’s not about us and what we can offer, it’s about what the customer needs and how we will solve their pain points. Reading this, you might think this is obvious and in theory it is , but I challenge all of you to do it day in and day out… It's hard to start with the customer and work backwards because it’s a mindset shift and shifting mindset takes practice. A lot of practice.

  2. Think big: Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.
    I see, feel and live this leadership principle daily at work. I am privileged to work with someone who has an innate ability to present and express vision with focus. Over my career, I have come to realize that thinking big and having a vision to lead doesn’t come easy for many including myself. Thinking big might sound like something anyone can do, but thinking big is not about expressing the end goal alone as anyone can do that, but thinking big is about (a) communicating a vision that might be disruptive and create discomfort for some as innovation often does, (b) have the ability to draw a journey towards the vision and (c) inspire people to embark on such journey filled with challenges, obstacles and milestone. Having the ability to think big is hard and it is something I have always wished to attain. I don’t think I have it at all yet, but I hope that overtime, as I observe others who can think big, I will learn how. So that in turn I can also lead to create and communicate bold direction that inspires results.

  3. Learn and be curious: Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. 
    This leadership principle is my dose of daily comfort. Learning and being curious is second nature to me so I strive in an environment where such attributes are expected for any leader. I love to learn, I love to challenge and improve myself. I demand feedback, I push my team to grow. Learning and being curious is how I believe we can keep any workplace fun and never get bored.

  4. Invent and simplify: Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify.
    Inventing and simplifying is super hard. On one hand inventing means thinking out of the box and challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone to find solutions. On the other hand, simplifying is the opposite of simple. Making a solution simple for customers doesn’t mean it was simple to find or simple to construct. To simplify anything, one needs to constantly go back to the objective, go back to the customer and streamline the solution. It can take time and multiple iterations to simplify anything and it requires hard work, courage and discomfort to invent and simplify. What I like the most about this principle is that it is not a one off guideline, but a way of working that is brought into work everyday. I don’t think I can yet invent and simplify, but my mind is slowly learning to strive for this vision and everyday at work I can feel the “invent and simplify” mindset make its way.

  5. Bias for action: Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.
    I have always been a doer, a go-getter and someone who favors pragmatism over theory. Like the learning and be curious principle, I feel right at home with the “bias for action” principle as this is how I like to operate. Over the last few weeks, I have also seen this principle in action. Decisions are made based on information and data, risk is calculated, but we move forward and don’t stand still in the no man’s land of decision paralysis. We look at what we know, calculate risk and move forward.

  6. Dive deep: Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdotes differ. No task is beneath them.
    Throughout my career, regardless of my level, I have done my fair share of tasks across all levels of competences and capabilities. I am a doer so when things need to get done, if my team has no more bandwidth or we need to push, I roll up my sleeves and I do what needs to be done. As I joined a startup incubated in a large company, the roll-up your sleeve mentality is intrinsic to how we work. Having a leader who also believes in this mindset is critical for success. Additionally, as we develop our product, I can see how close we need to stay to the details and audit frequently what is being done. Additionally, for a long time, a lot of my decisions have relied on anecdotal information and I come to realize that anecdotes are fun, but often used for decision making instead of gathering the data required. It is indeed easier to collect a few anecdotes, but anecdotal evidence is not statistically sound. Often, anecdotes stand out as they are outliers and don’t offer a true representation of reality. Over the last few weeks, I have been forced to reconsider how I dive into details, I have been looking at data more than I have in recent years and I have been striving to understand situations based on metrics, statistics and insights. This is a change for me but one I welcome as I used to be a data nerd. But although my background was once within data, this is definitely a change that requires practice as I am unlearning to focus on anecdotes and learning to ask questions so we uncover a truth that is more fact based. I am not there yet, but the journey has started and I am excited to see where it takes me.

  7. Have backbone, disagree and commit: Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.
    In theory, the above is common sense and something one should expect every leader to do and always live by. In practice, throughout my career, I have to admit that I have seen many leaders, including myself, lack backbone at times. Having backbone and challenging decisions is hard and can get personal very quickly, even when it has nothing to do with anything personal. Having backbone also means to challenge decisions even when doing so is uncomfortable and although we wish everyone had the integrity to do so, let’s be honest, not everyone wants to be uncomfortable and challenge authority. This is why I love this principle so much. Not because it is obvious, but because it is spelled out and by doing so, it enables leaders to use the principle and when facing adversity, call upon it to remind everyone that this is their duty, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

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