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(previously published in Oyster Pointer July/August 2006)

When I completed my doctorate, I jokingly told my husband he might consider addressing me as “doctor.” He had just been promoted to lieutenant colonel, and also had his MBA. He said, “I tell you what, why don’t we address each other by highest degree earned. I’ll call you ‘doctor’ if you call me ‘master.’”

I never revisited that subject! But our conversation did remind me of how we often view leadership as a position of control and dominance. Leadership expert, Burns (1978), argues to the contrary. He states, leaders induce “followers to act for certain goals that represent… the wants and needs… of both leaders and followers” (p. 19). Leading others is an awesome responsibility, not to be taken lightly.

In my speaking engagements, I frequently discuss what I call, “The Three P’s of Leadership;” in which every leader in the workplace, community, and home should be (1) a person of principle, (2) a person of purpose, and (3) a person of passion.

When I think of principled leaders, I’m reminded of the time a first grade teacher told me my son was a person of great character because he stood up for what was right when everyone else was doing wrong. Most agree that to be principled is to consistently engage in right conduct regardless of circumstance.

Principled Leaders are Transparent, Honest, and Fair

A leader who is a person of principle possesses, among others, three distinct qualities. First, principled leaders are transparent; they show their true colors even if it makes them vulnerable. In a world of pretense, we’re magnetically drawn to “real” people. When leaders “fake it,” they forfeit the rights of respect and trust.

Second, principled leaders are honest; they’re not afraid of the truth regardless of what it reveals. In the workplace, giving appropriate credit for work done often proves challenging. While it’s true we can accomplish much if we’re not looking for credit, principled leaders will give credit to whom it rightfully belongs. We’re all familiar with copyright laws and what happens if we violate them, yet how many of us have sat back and quietly taken credit for something we didn’t do or overtly lied about our contributions? Dishonesty is problematic, even if we “don’t get caught.”

Finally, principled leaders are fair; they treat others as equals, regardless of status. During my undergraduate studies, I performed vocally throughout the U.S. and Canada. I remember vividly one of our director’s comments. He said, “Remember, no matter how talented you are, there’s always someone who’s better.” That statement has been a constant reminder that we’re all unique and equally important and should be treated as such. When we lead transparently, honestly, and with fairness, it’s easy to stand firm on issues that matter.

Purposeful Leaders are
Insightful, Ingenious, and Igniting

Many of us are drawn to people who, with enthusiasm and surety, speak their convictions. Even if we disagree with them, we still find their assertive manner intriguing and alluring. The leader who is a person of purpose can effectively craft and articulate the group’s vision; they possess what I call the “i-factors.” First, leaders of purpose are insightful, able to see beyond the current perception. Walt Disney offers a classic example of insightfulness. Early in his career, he was fired from a newspaper for lack of ideas (“Working Wounded,” 2005), ideas he later turned into a multi-billion dollar empire.

Purposeful leaders are ingenious; they think outside the box. Some don’t even realize there is a box. On Mother’s Day, my son, a “leader-in-training,” gave me an unexpected gift–a small, colorful, peacock figurine. He said he wanted to get something uniquely suited to my personality. Leaders are not constrained by convention or tradition.

Finally, leaders of purpose are igniting; they see what should be and make it a reality. Through their insightful, ingenious, and igniting qualities, purposeful leaders pass the vision to others.

Passionate Leaders are Bold, Committed, and
Fanatics for their Cause

When leaders operate in principled ways to carry out their purpose, enthusiasm naturally ensues. To engage and empower followers, a leader must be a person of passion. Impassioned leaders are bold; even in the face of ridicule, they’ll stand for what they believe, without apology! Impassioned leaders are committed; their fervency drives them toward the vision, in spite of obstacles. Finally, impassioned leaders are fanatics for their cause. They’ll take whatever calculated risks are necessary to propel the group forward.

As leaders, we must operate in principled, purposeful, and passionate ways. If we’re willing to stand for what’s right, commit to a worthwhile vision, and go the distance regardless the cost, we can accomplish things far beyond what the mind imagines. As Warren Bennis says, “The process of becoming a leader is much the same as becoming an integrated human being.”


Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.

Rosner, B. (Feb. 25, 2005). ‘Working wounded:’ getting pink-slipped. ABC News.