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Achieve success by following these ‘first principles’ of leadership

Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on January 2, 2023. Updated 8:00 am.

As we enter 2023, we should all be guided by what I identify as “first principles” of leadership. These are excerpted from my book, “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” Unfortunately, many leaders in business, nonprofits and politics miss the mark.



  • Hire people with common sense and good critical judgment who will know, on rare occasion, when to violate policy if it’s in the best interests of the company to do so.
  • Push your employees outside of their comfort zones. There is no better way for them to develop.
  • Encourage your employees to develop a sense of ownership in what they do.
  • Don’t micromanage. Empower your direct reports. Set expectations, jointly establish goals and cut them loose to do their thing.
  • Encourage your employees to break paradigms. It will lead to new ways of doing things and is a source of competitive advantage.
  • Don’t tolerate a tyrant. Part company with them.
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  • Understand your markets and get ahead of market trends.
  • Work to become the preferred provider by delivering a great customer/client experience.
  • Understand your competition and their strategies. Don’t underestimate them.
  • Recognize that only the paranoid survive.


  • Always use “we,” instead of “I.” Not much is accomplished without a great team surrounding you.
  • Communicate to your employees the role of their business unit, for example, generate cash flow from your mature businesses to invest in growth businesses.
  • Learn how to sell your ideas to your boss, your direct reports, your peers and to the wider organization.
  • When making a presentation, place yourself in the position of your audience to determine the best way to deliver your message to get your point across.

Universal Values

  • Always project a proactive attitude. Be a person who sees possibilities and abundance, and not one who only sees scarcity and limitations.
  • Your credibility, honesty, ethics and integrity determine your reputation, your most cherished professional possession.
  • When making difficult ethical choices, remember the passage in the West Point Cadet Prayer, “Make us choose the harder right than the easier wrong.”
  • Lead like you would like to be led. Treat people like you would like to be treated. Practice the human side of leadership.

These principles will help you achieve success regardless of your profession.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at

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