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Build your own personal leadership manifesto.

Phil Bennett Posted by Phil Bennett in Uncategorized 6 min read

Want to understand what defines you as a leader, use this step by step process to define your own leadership manifesto.

Last year I went through the process of developing my leadership manifesto. It’s now how I attempt to lead my teams, and I mark myself against it every month.

When I wrote and published it to my blog, I naively anticipated that people would be inspired by my manifesto and adopt parts of it into their leadership styles.

I was trying to lead by example and inspire some people, but it failed to have the impact that I anticipated.

However, the development of the manifesto has had a significant impact on me. Having a guiding set of principles has helped me focus on getting better as a leader, and allowed me to plan out a future path for myself.

My manifesto has made me a better manager.

One size does not fit all.

However, after receiving feedback, it became clear to me that while my manifesto works excellently for me, it doesn’t work for other people.

Everyone has their style and personality, and what works for one leader won’t work for everyone else.

What works for me will never be an excellent fit for everyone. Even the chances of it being a partial fit for another manager is relatively low.

Do it yourself!

One of the main things that people have asked when they see the manifesto is how I would suggest developing their own.

Now, it took me months of writing and reflecting on 20 years of personal experiences to build up my manifesto, so it was tricky to give guidance on how people could easily do the same.

The Design Sprint.

I sat down and did a small person retrospective on why the process I had gone through worked for me. The more I dug into it, the more I realised that it was very similar to the design sprint methodology.

The design sprint is an incredibly useful, step-by-step process that helps a team of people reduce the risks of launching products, services, or features.

It has five distinct steps:

  • Understand: Review the problem space in detail and define a problem you want to solve.
  • Diverge: Working ‘along together’ to throw out as many possible ideas.
  • Converge:Filter down the ideas by voting on one strong concept.
  • Prototype: Create a minimum viable product quickly.

Test: Validate the concept; iterate if needed.

The process that I went through had very similar steps.

  • Understand: The scope was my personal experience as a manager for over ten years. I had already performed the research, also I have a well-defined problem space. The question I was trying to answer was ‘Why are you good at what you do?”
  • Diverge: The diverge process was the writing, just throwing as many ideas down into words as I could.
  • Converge: The convergence was the process of categorising the blog posts.
  • Prototype: I built an initial manifesto adjusting the category names.
  • Test: The test is my report card process or marking myself against the manifesto.

Design Sprint But Quickly.

So, I followed a process similar to the design sprint, but it took me ages. Design sprints are great, but they cost a lot of time, even though it takes only a week to complete the process, a whole team of people needs to dedicate an entire week. Design sprints can easily take a minimum of 40+ people days to complete.

But, handily you can thin down this kind of process, an example of this is the Lightning Decision Jam, a process that follows a similar pattern but distills it down into an hour-long process.

Your manifesto.

So I’ve taken my own experience and inspiration from the lightning decision jam and built a step by step process that you can work through quickly to develop your manifesto.

Step 1. Get in the zone.

Firstly, it’s impossible to pretend that having a personal manifesto isn’t a little pretentious. Don’t overthink this. The process is a bit silly, and if you’re a super-serious type, you might find some of the steps a little jarring and stupid.

Just go with the flow, enjoy the process, and be as stupidly confident as you’re comfortable with. You don’t have to show anyone the outcome. Be your own motivational leadership coach for a few hours. It’ll be our little secret.

I’ve also created a google sheet that you can use as a supporting document to this process.


Step 2. Experiences

Firstly, we need to do a deep dive into your history and write down 10 to 20 events you remember in your career that are memorable.

Focus on things that have left lasting memories, both good and bad—the highs and the lows. The events that have left feelings behind.

Put these in a big table with three columns to the right. It might make sense to use a spreadsheet for this, or a large piece of paper.

Step 3. Learnings

For each of the memories that you wrote in the last step, jot down a few quick bullet points on what you learnt from that experience.

Don’t spend too much time on this, just quick bullet points highlighting the things that quickly pop to mind.

Add these in the second column in your table.

Step 4. Solutions

If the learnings were negative, fill the third column with a few steps you would take now to make sure you wouldn’t make the same mistakes again.

Again, just make quick notes, don’t spend too much time on these solutions.

Step 5. Spice it Up

Now here comes to the stupid part. Imagine that you’re now a cringe-inducing motivational speaker. You know the type, bottle tan, Madonna microphone, and a fabled TED talk about how they changed their life with four simple steps. You could maybe give this alter ego a name to help you get into character. Linda Maximus, or Lars Winning

Now imagine your alter ego is writing a blog, rewrite each of your initial experiences as the title of a blog post. Write these titles in the most clickbait-style way that you can.

Include the experience and the positive outcome that you have in the fourth column of your table.

For example:

  • How nearly losing my job taught me the importance of emotional safety.
  • I once deleted a multimillion-dollar company corporate website, teaching me the importance of backups.
  • What the toughest interview of my life taught me about communication.

Step 6. Categorise

Imagine that your alter-ego has won a publishing contract for five books due to the success of their blog.

You must now work out which blog posts you’re going to put into which books, group your blog post, so they become chapters in your books. Try to collect them into groups that have similar topics, or tell a story if you order. If you can’t group them into five collections, don’t worry, it can be more or fewer. At the worst, if you can’t make five books, your fictional publisher will want your fiction advance back, which doesn’t exist.

The final step is to give each of these books a title, aim to provide your books catchy titles that will stand out on the shelves. Make them statements.

For examples:

  • 40 Hours is Enough
  • Extreme Leadership
  • Finding the time for deep work. If you’re struggling, look on Amazon for top sellers in the business section.

Step 7. Fill in the details a bit.

Once you have your book titles, write a simple synopsis of the book—an up-sell for each of the titles. Write two to three sentences that summarise what the title means.

Tada! You have your manifesto.

Step 8. Now Validate.

Now you have your manifesto, implements it. Pick a timescale, weekly, monthly, or quarterly and mark yourself out of ten for each point. Keep a record and see if improving your scores relates to improvements in your general performance.