I recently spent the afternoon at Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art. One of the exhibitions featured a 10-foot high poster created by Rick Griffith of @MATTERdesign entitled: “An Introductory Ethic for Designers.” As I looked up at the massive manifesto and reviewed its 17 principles, it struck me that the word “leader” could easily replace the word “designer” in the title.

After you read through my riff on the connection between three of Griffith’s principles and leadership, I encourage you to take a closer look at this piece and find the principle that most strongly resonates with you.

Work only for the trustworthy. Choosing who we work for and with may be the most consequential decision we make as leaders. It’s easy to focus on credentials and accomplishments while forgiving patterns of behavior that chip away at trust. Make trustworthiness a priority as you choose your partners. Give people the benefit of the doubt but draw a clear line when it comes to repeated actions that weaken your trust in them. More importantly, be a leader who is trustworthy. If you want to know what makes a leader trustworthy in the eyes of others, here’s my summary of “the big ten” determinants of trustworthiness.

Listen. Change. Laugh. We’re constantly told about the importance of listening — to the point where the message may have lost it’s impact. So, instead let’s focus on your attitude while you’re attempting to listen, especially in the face of ideas to which you feel resistant. How invested are you in being right? How much energy are you spending formulating a response? How loud is the voice of judgment as you are listening? How open are you to being changed by the conversation – to being simultaneously wrong and smarter than you were when the discussion began? Laughter helps. It’s important to take ideas seriously without taking yourself too seriously.

Once a week you should sleep. Twice a week you should read. There is a kind of magic that happens when we sleep deeply to fully restore our bodies and minds. But for most of us, that doesn’t happen regularly. In fact, the Center for Disease Control identified insufficient sleep as a “public health epidemic.” Research suggests that getting 15 minutes more of sleep per night can significantly impact our health and well-being. For concrete changes you can make, the Mayo Clinic suggests six tips for better sleep. To be at our best, we need our brains to be rested. We also need to expose our minds to new ideas that provoke, disrupt, and inspire us. So read. Read stories, non-fiction, and the work of great poets, journalists, and thought leaders.

Now you choose a principle. Reflect on how you might more fully embody that ideal.

Image credit: Scott Webb on Unsplash

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