How To Build a Leadership Credo

how to build a leadership credo

Too many leaders run through their days without taking time to consider how and why they lead as they do. Days become months and months become years. Pressures, grooming, and politics all create counter-pressures to authenticity. Articulating what you value, helps you to stay true to what you believe. Every year, I take time out to work on my leadership credo. For the first time this week, I formalized the process and shared it with a group of leaders representing over 10 countries and a cross-section of industries.Today, I share the easy-to-implement process along with video highlights (click here to see).

How to Build a Leadership Credo

1. Set up

This exercise pairs well with a discussion on leadership authenticity.

2. Creation

Encourage participants to use a combination of words, pictures, and any other creative sparks to articulate their credo (can be done as a “homework” assignment).  Encourage participants to be as creative as they possible and to limit their work to one page (the definition of a page may vary based on the medium). Each credo should include the following components:

  • Core leadership values (e.g. integrity, transparency)
  • Operating principles (e.g. develop strong peer relationships)
  • Desired outcomes (“As a result of my leadership this year_______”)

3. Gallery Walk

Provide each participant with 6 dot stickers for “voting” (3 yellow and 3 blue). Have each team member walk around the room and share their credos with one another. Give them enough time and space to really listen to one another’s point of view and to identify similarities and differences. When they are struck by the message or creativity of a particular credo, they can recognize their colleague with a yellow dot for depth of thinking or a blue dot for creativity. You can reward the most dots in several creative ways.

4. Discussion

Debrief the themes and process with the group. For highlights of the themes and for examples of the creative credos watch the video summary. Let’s have some Monday fun. Share the most important aspects of your leadership credo.


Your turn. What’s the most important part of your leadership credo?
Filed Under:   Authenticity & Transparency, Career & Learning, Communication
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

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What People Are Saying

Alli Polin   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

Love that you use the dots to recognize and encourage each other and not “vote” on who’s best. I’ve had leaders make collages to represent their values, share them with their peers and more importantly, go back and share it with their teams. It feels silly at first for some but images help them connect with the ideas in a deeper way.

As for my leadership credo… this is the perfect time to revisit! Thanks!

Karin Hurt   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

Alli, That’s a great technique too. I’m a big believer in using pictures to help folks connect with whats on their hearts and minds.

Steve Borek   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

I practice one of Kouzes and Posner’s Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders every day. The key is consistency. Do something every day.

Karin Hurt   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

Steve, Oh that’s just awesome. For those not familiar with the 5 Practices: model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, encourage the heart

Jon Mertz   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

A creative way to define the type of leader we want to be, Karin! Using visuals along with words can take the development to a broader view as well as engage others more deeply in the process. Great approach! Jon

Karin Hurt   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

Thanks, Jon. We had so much fun with it as well.

Terri Klass   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

Love the idea of a leadership credo Karin! I also admire the way you keep revisiting your credo because we do need to keep updating and adjusting where we want our leadership to be.

I think I will try some of your techniques as they are perfect for any leadership training program!


Karin Hurt   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

Thanks, Terri. The participants really seemed to enjoy it.

LaRae Quy   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

Karin…this is a great exercise! I was a member of a Vistage group that did something similar and it’s really eye opening to see how well others can pick up on BS…I got pinged on everything that was not coming from my heart!

Karin Hurt   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

LaRae, That’s so awesome. When we went through our yoga teacher training we were asked to use pictures showcasing our chakras.. similar effect ;-)

Solomon Belette   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

Karin, I like your leadership credo. I was part of a two year fellowship with Leader Spring where we were asked to develop our leadership framework. Mine turned out to be SISAR, which stands for Spiritual, Intellectual, Strategic, Authentic, and Resilient. SISAR is now my brand and rely on it to inform my leadership approach. The five elements are interrelated and together create synergy. Thanks.

Karin Hurt   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

Solomon, That sounds just FANTASTIC. Thanks so much for sharing your great paradigm.

bill holston   |   05 August 2014   |   Reply

Another GREAT article. Well, I realize that didn’t really have a process. I know what I pray for each morning: that I would lead with Integrity, Wisdom, Courage, Skill and Humility.
The first and the last are the most important. I guess I could say my leadership credo come directly from my values. Thanks for giving me food for thought.


Karin Hurt   |   05 August 2014   |   Reply

Bill, what a beautiful prayer. Amen.

James McKey   |   05 August 2014   |   Reply

Great stuff! I would add that we should challenge ourselves at the end of that credo exercise to commit to sharing it in person with two others (Covey learn/teach model) and share it publicly in some way (Facebook, youtube video, whatever).

Karin Hurt   |   05 August 2014   |   Reply

James, Excellent. I love that.

Katy   |   05 August 2014   |   Reply

What a great article. Food for thoughts! I will work on my CREDO. I’m in the process to re-brand myself and if will use that as starting point.

Karin Hurt   |   05 August 2014   |   Reply

Katy, Awesome. I would love to see it when you’re done, if you are interested in sharing.

Katy   |   05 August 2014   |  

Thanks for the offer! I will count on that!