What is Leadership Philosophy?- And Examples


Philosophies are guiding principles that influence the attitude of a person or group. They are used to interpret the reality around us. They impart knowledge and wisdom concerning issues in society. They are practiced in communities and organizations. What is Leadership Philosophy?

Leadership philosophy refers to a set of guiding principles adopted by a leader in order to best serve his people and get their unwavering support. It forms part of the belief system practiced by an individual or group. Leadership philosophies influence leadership styles. In this article, we are going to analyze various leadership philosophies.

Types of Leadership Philosophies

Aristocratic Philosophy 

Power rests in the hands of a special minority group. These minority groups have earned their special status by birth, endorsement, accreditation, or nobility. For instance, the concept of European nobility arose since communities were categorized into social classes of the rich and poor. In medieval England, nobles were intermediaries between the rich and poor. They gave work, land, and protection to the peasants while providing funding, supplies, and military service to the Monarchy. In contemporary societies or formal organizations, the same concept is seen through endorsements or accreditations. For instance, when a person acquires membership to a professional body, political party, and sports club, among others. This person is pleading allegiance to this organization or group. They agree to abide by their belief systems and standards.

Monarchical Philosophy 

Power rests with one person who is given authority by virtue of being an heir. This means they inherit the position due to kinship ties and proceed with the legacy of their predecessor. For instance, in contemporary society or formal organizations, there are family-owned businesses. The board of directors and sometimes the entire management team is composed of relatives by birth, adoption, or marriage. The directors and managers are replaced by other family members when they vacate office. Monarchical governments still exist to date. For instance, European Monarchies include United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, Norway, and Belgium.

Oligarchy Philosophy 

Power rests with a minority group perceived to be different from the ordinary population. They are distinguished by a set of characteristics such as qualifications, abilities, attributes, resources, and cultures, among others. For instance, the management team in an organization is placed in charge of the majority of the employees due to their expertise and experience. They are placed in these positions by merit. They have more mastery of the requirements in their field of work. They can easily resolve problems or challenges due to their knowledge base. As a result, they receive preferential treatment compared to other employees. This may include higher remuneration and access to sensitive information. They equally bear the biggest burden when operations fail.

Anarchism Philosophy

Power rests with ordinary people. There is a decentralization of power and authority when this philosophy is adopted. Governing bodies are perceived to be oppressive and irrelevant. The emphasis is placed on mutual respect and collaborative or participatory efforts. This philosophy advocates for extreme equality and the abolition of hierarchical systems in communities and organizations. Power and authority flow horizontally due to equal opportunities and status. This philosophy discourages any structured systems in government, religion, and economy. It opposes capitalism and favors a free-market approach. There is the use of both revolutionary and evolutionary tactics to realize change.

Revolutionary tactics involve violence and confrontation while evolutionary tactics refer to non-violent or peaceful ways of addressing contentious issues. For instance, this approach is often used by community development agencies when dealing with communities. These agencies encourage participatory development whereby the community is involved in decision-making and collective action. The community is empowered through selecting the project that will help them the most and implementing it using available local resources. This brings them to the realization that help comes from within the community and that they are self-sufficient. This leads to sustainable development.

Authoritarianism Philosophy

Power rests with a single form of authority. This power is centralized and absolute. Opposing a leadership that has adopted this philosophy has dire consequences. This philosophy is extremely restrictive and curtails the rights of the people. It discourages any inquisitive efforts concerning the decisions and actions taken. They have controls to ensure that the population adheres to their precepts. This is aimed at prolonging the office term of the leader. For instance, countries that have a maximum of two political parties will be subjected to this kind of leadership. The ruling party will always want to maintain authority. The opposition party will often be subdued and stringent measures will be used to silence them. 

Communism Philosophy

Power rests with the people in the community or organization. This philosophy encourages communal living and property ownership. Benefits for the people are given according to individual abilities and needs. The main idea behind this philosophy is a classless society with equal opportunities. For instance, countries that adopt this philosophy have excellent welfare systems for the citizens. The government will provide free or extremely subsidized healthcare, education, and other essential services to the population. Organizations that practice this philosophy will have competitive compensation and benefits programs for their workers. This may include medical covers, flexible working hours, retirement schemes, bonuses, and allowances, among others.

Socialism Philosophy

Under this philosophy, the means of production are owned by the state but the citizens are permitted to have private property. It emphasizes mutual collaboration between the government and citizens. Benefits for the people are given according to individual contributions to the community’s economy. It also focuses on equality and shared resources. For instance, Sri Lanka and Vietnam are socialist countries.

Conservatism Philosophy

The focus of this philosophy is the preservation and maintenance of the existing status quo. The proponents discourage changes in communities or organizations. They trust traditional ways of doing things whether or not they are beneficial or relevant. They do not advocate for change or modernization. This philosophy proposes free enterprise, private ownership, and socially traditional ideas. For instance, one of the political parties in America is the conservative party. The principles adopted by this party include free market, human dignity, individual liberty, limited government involvement, rule of law, protection of the state, and financial responsibility.

Liberalism Philosophy

The philosophy proposes liberty, equality, and consensus of the citizens. While the government is central in ensuring law and order, the proponents are of the view that it can easily be oppressive without the appropriate checks and balances. For instance, the liberal party in the United Kingdom believes in free trade, personal liberty, reducing monarchy and church powers, social reforms, and no alliances in war or foreign policy.

Republican Philosophy 

This philosophy is focused on citizens’ rights and a legitimate government elected by the people. This philosophy emphasizes the personal liberty and sovereignty of the people. It promotes ethical standards and loyalty among the citizens. It suggests that people should take their civic duties seriously such as voting. It discourages corruption at all levels. For instance, the American Republican Party supports immigration restrictions, high military financing, lower taxes, free-market capitalism, private gun ownership, abortion restrictions, labor union restrictions, and de-regulation.

Democratic Philosophy

Power rests with the majority of the population. All citizens have equal rights and opportunities. This philosophy proposes equal participation of people in decision-making and actions. The leader is elected by the people through a fair and just voting process. Changes under this philosophy are achieved through a peaceful and consensual process. Most modern governments are democratic. Political parties are formed and citizens ascribe to their preferred group. Elections are organized by a special body and parties submit names of their candidates. Voting then takes place and the winner is announced.

Importance of a Leadership Philosophy 

Reduces Conflict

It creates law and order necessary in achieving goals and objectives. Conformity by the leader and group is easily achieved since there are clear guidelines. This also improves performance and productivity.

Reduces Risks

Since guiding principles exist, exposure to risks is reduced. The leadership is able to control unwanted or illegal tendencies among the group members in advance.

Enhances Collective Action

It helps with the articulation of goals and objectives. The leader and group members are able to prioritize needs and break them down for implementation.

Enhances Performance 

It enhances the productivity of both the leader and the group. This in turn increases organizational profitability and popularity. A well-organized group can achieve targets in the shortest time possible.

Enhances Compliance

It ensures that rules and regulations are followed by the leaders and group members. As a result, ethical dilemma cases and violation of law is drastically curbed.

Enhances Alignment 

It describes the vision, mission, and values of the leadership. As a result, the group members are able to interpret the decisions and actions of the leader. With this understanding, the group members easily accept the philosophy and implement it. 

Enhances Guidance 

It describes decisions and actions that are acceptable or not acceptable. These guides group members on the best way to behave and conduct activities.

Enhances Referencing 

The leader and group members have a place to refer to in case of any disputes or challenges. It prescribes the methods and procedures to be taken in various situations.

Enhances Integration

It enhances cohesiveness and harmonious interaction within the group. It neutralizes personal differences and focuses on unifying factors. This collaboration ensures that everyone remains peaceful and focused on important issues.

Enhances Loyalty

Law and order are essential to ensure peaceful coexistence in society and organizations. This creates a bond between group members. They are assured of protection from negative forces since there is a governance structure.

Enhances Discipline

There are rules and regulations to follow with corresponding corrective measures for defaulters. Since everyone understands the dire consequences of not abiding by them, conformity is easily achieved. The corrective measures act as an incentive to follow the stipulated guidelines.

Challenges of a Leadership Philosophy

Qualities of the Leader

As much as the rules and regulations exist, if the leaders do not ensure they are followed it is all in vain. You can have leaders with a laissez-faire attitude towards operations. They allow people to do as they wish. Others may have too much workload to pay attention to group activities.

Conflicts of interest

This occurs when personal interests are in antagonism with professional interests. Once you develop and implement a philosophy, no one is exempt. This may scare most people since they have their own preferences in performing their activities. More often than not, personal interests or activities have a major impact on our professional and community life. As a result, it becomes difficult to strike a balance between the two opposing sides.

Standardization Problems

Getting consensus from a large group of people is a challenge. Everyone has their own preference and way of doing things. People interpret issues from different perspectives. What is good to one is bad to the next person. Therefore, coming to an agreement that certain rules and regulations are appropriate for a given situation is difficult. One party will want it adjusted while the other wants the status quo. This quest for uniformity may sometimes prove futile. 

Cultural Diversity

An impartial philosophy needs to consider all case sides. The problem is that in a given group of people there could be a thousand options to select from. This is due to the rich cultural and professional backgrounds of group members. Sifting through all these options and incorporating them into a single guideline is a challenge.

Lack of Support

Getting a diverse group of people to align with the philosophies is a challenge. With large groups come cliques and each has its own set of value systems. As a result, making them accept and follow these rules and regulations is a challenge. The leader may only get partial acceptance.

Lack of Resources

Various resources are required in the implementation phase such as equipment, machinery, infrastructure, and even people. You cannot expect group members to be efficient and effective when they have to share critical resources or when these resources are not available.

Lack of Accountability

Most people are not willing to accept responsibility for a course of action or decision. They lack a sense of obligation and ownership when it comes to practicing and implementing leadership philosophies. It is interpreted as an external concept rather than personal duty. The majority of people fail to internalize these philosophies. Instead, they use them superficially and only when monitored. This reduces its significance and impact.

Lack of Transparency

Lack of credibility lowers the level of trust among people and leaders. As a result, they do not adopt or use the philosophy in the required manner. Therefore they will not reap the full benefits of the philosophy.

Enforcement Problems

Proper checks and balances to ensure adherence to the philosophies may not be available. Following up on each person on a routine basis is not an easy task for leaders.

Rigid Structures

Individual rights, creativity, and goals are curtailed due to the need to follow the rules and regulations outlined by the philosophy. Opting for a different method despite achieving results may not be welcome. It may be interpreted as defiance.


Leadership philosophies are adopted by a leader and a group of people in order to achieve the desired plan. These philosophies form part of their culture in communities or organizations. These philosophies influence decisions and actions taken by the leader and group. Some of these philosophies are oppressive while others are liberating. In some cases, the leader and group can incorporate more than one philosophy to enhance goal attainment and interaction with others.

There are several philosophies that a leader and group of people can choose from. These include aristocracy, oligarchy, monarchy, anarchism, authoritarianism, communism, socialism, conservatism, liberalism, republicanism, and democratic philosophies. The choice on which of the philosophies to apply depends on their preference or in some cases the practicality of that philosophy in their environment. Leadership philosophies are important for both leaders and people. However, they may experience several challenges as they try to develop and implement these philosophies in their environments.

The acceptance of a leadership philosophy requires a lot of persuasion from the leader. He will need to create awareness of his philosophy to convince people to adopt it. Historically, these bargaining efforts have yielded a lot of tension and violence in various populations. Leaders have used unorthodox means to get compliance while populations have resisted using violent means. Striking a balance between the leader’s and group’s desires has always been a complex undertaking. Therefore, leaders must devise better methods of securing popular support from their people. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. What is the difference between communism and socialism? 

In communism, the means of production are owned and controlled largely by the people while in socialism, the means of production are owned and controlled by the government.

  1. What is the difference between an aristocracy and an oligarchy?

In an aristocracy, power rests with a noble group while in an oligarchy, power rests with an endorsed group.

  1. Which two philosophies has the UK adopted?

They have adopted both the Monarchical and Democratic philosophies in running the affairs of their country.

What is Leadership Philosophy?- And Examples

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