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Trimming Down Our Leadership Philosophy - Sometimes Less is More

By Mark J. Cappone

What we want others to know, and what they actually retain, depends a great deal on how we communicate.

While actions always speak louder than words, this parable is about our written leadership philosophies, highlighting that sometimes ‘less is more’ if we hope to communicate a leadership philosophy that travels past the ink it’s printed on.

I had to prepare my first leadership philosophy as an Army ROTC cadet, and it was about four pages long. I dutifully published these documents throughout my career, reflecting upon, revising, and then writing about my leadership style, beliefs, priorities, and expectations. From platoon leader to company command and on to battalion command, they were always around four pages long.

What I took too long to learn was that my leadership philosophy only made its way to those who actually took the time to read it — and said philosophy was only partially retained due to its length.

As I prepared to assume brigade command, I knew I needed to boil things way down to have a chance that 1,800 soldiers would know my leadership philosophy.

I came up with my ‘Three Ds,’ bulletizing my entire leadership philosophy in three key tenets. As corny as it sounds, former soldiers tell me yet today that they remember them:

  • Do Unto Others
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Decide to Make a Difference

Our leadership decisions are based foremost on our values. My personal values — trust and respect, character and integrity, and commitment — became my leadership philosophy and helped me articulate my leadership style, beliefs, priorities, and expectations.

Most of us can’t remember three to five pages of anything. But when three simple tenets are written about, spoken about, and constantly demonstrated, we stand a better chance of retaining them.

Sometimes less is more.

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