Paul Butler | The principles of leadership

Paul Butler

If I’ve learned anything about human behavior, it’s that our perceptions drive our behaviors, which dictate our results. Our perceptions are the window through which we see the world — how we see others; the situation and ourselves. Our behaviors are no more complicated than what we do or don’t do, say or don’t say. Some behaviors are effective and some ineffective. The results we receive are really just an output of our perceptions and behaviors. 

If we’re pleased with the results we’re getting, we just need to keep perceiving (P) and behaving (B) the way we are — as they’re getting us the results (R) we want. If we’re unsatisfied with the results we’re getting, we need to look at shifting our perception and changing our behavior. 

I perceive one fundamental flaw with this P + B = R formula. What if our perceptions are inaccurate? What if the starting point of our formula is set on sinking sand? Just because we’ve all heard the phrase “perception is reality” doesn’t make it true. 

The solid rock of principle 

The solid rock on which to build our perception and behaviors is named “principle.” Principles are timeless, not temporal. Principles are objective, not subjective. Principles exist with or without our permission. Principles are universal, not local. 

Wrestling this into workplace application — an organization will receive the result of superb customer service when enough of its employees behave in a customer-centric manner by perceiving the customer as king or queen. The principle underneath excellent customer service is essentially the Golden Rule: to do unto others as you would have done to you. 

What about teamwork? Well, a team works well when each individual member perceives a mission, vision or goal that supersedes self and behaves accordingly. The principle underneath breakthrough teams is knowing that without vision, the team will perish — there has to be a goal bigger than self, else we will in-fight and clamor for our own self-centered win. 

What about in times of conflict? When there’s conflict in the workplace, our perceptions can get all out of whack very quickly and, because of that, our behaviors can permanently damage relationships if not reined in. It’s much better to build our perceptions and behaviors on the timeless, objective and universal principle that in times of conflict it’s better to seek the interest of the other as well as your own interest. As the late Dr. Stephen Covey said in his work, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” borrowing from this principle we should always think “win-win” — What’s a “win” for the other party, and are you able to express what’s a “win” for you? 

A firm foundation 

The workplace is just a collection of people working together to provide a product or service to someone else. Whether we’re talking about leadership, teamwork, conflict resolution or time management, it ultimately has to benefit the customer. 

We have to base our perceptions and behaviors on the firm foundation of timeless principles to have any hope of navigating through the labyrinth of issues that can become entangled when we bring human beings together to get the job done. 

Leaders can lead best when they build their perceptions and behaviors on the principle of turning the organizational pyramid upside down — the greatest must be a servant. Teams can thrive when they operate on the principle that the sum of many is much better than the work of a lone genius. Conflict can be positively reduced in the workplace when individuals actively seek to understand each other, placing their own ego to one side. 

So in conclusion, P + B = R is true, but if we build our perceptions and behaviors on timeless, objective and universal principles, we can be assured of much more effective results. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected] 

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