Great leaders are never born; rather they are defined by characteristics which are united under a common philosophy. Successful leaders define themselves with a consistent, understandable philosophy and stick to their guns. These philosophies can be drawn from other successful CEOs, tacticians or philosophers, or it can be an amalgam of your favorite ideas. The central tenet of all leadership philosophies should be people - how you approach, manage and evaluate them. Setting this standard defines your leadership style and will change how people approach and interact with you. A lack of a clearly defined leadership style will leave you looking like a spineless politician attempting to keep all conflicting parties happy, which may seem like a peaceful short-term solution, but will fail to inspire your employees in the long run. Iconic leaders such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett all share a common characteristic - an unfailing dedication to their personal vision and philosophy for their respective companies.

Positive Reinforcement

If you intend to assume the role of your company's mentor, then your employees must be treated like students. Just as teachers often rely on Benjamin Franklin's famous phrase, "Tart words make no friends; a spoonful or honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar," managers must remember that employees are more likely to respond to positive encouragement rather than purely negative feedback. The famous "Yes Sandwich" - a negative comment sandwiched by two encouraging remarks - is a classic trick for using positive reinforcement to soften the blow of a negative comment. Another popular trick is second-hand compliments - letting your employees know that someone else has spoken highly of their work - even if it requires slight exaggeration or dramatization. Positive reinforcement is like WD-40 sprayed on your corporate cogs. Failing to oil these gears regularly will cause the machine to grind to a screeching halt.

Unfailing Consistency

Throughout history, statesmen such as Sun Tzu and Niccolo Machiavelli have taught us that consistency is the key to leadership. Never set rules that you yourself can not abide by, and punish and reward all of your followers equally and without favoritism. Great leaders inspire and terrify simultaneously, standing as a pillar of strength for employees to look up to. Be generous when you reward employees, and be harsh when you punish them. Never skirt around the issue of termination - let all your employees know loud and clear why certain employees were dismissed.

Understanding Your Employees' Strengths and Weaknesses

Great leaders understand the strengths and weaknesses of key employees, and will pair them together to compensate for shortcomings while accentuating strengths. This is a key philosophy shared by military leaders and coaches alike. In a corporate environment, pairing the chaotically creative guy with the disciplined organizer who never thinks outside the box can yield unexpected and valuable results.

Be Visible

Too many CEOs are invisible to everyday employees. Many companies are simply led by a faceless name behind a desk who rarely interacts with lower level employees. These CEOs are the ones who fail to understand the strengths and weaknesses of key employees, as well as the focus of their company. Iconic leaders such as Gates, Jobs or Bezos stay visible and at the forefront of the action. They are leaders that don't send their army into the field while they sit atop a high horse with binoculars - they are the leaders that charge at the front of their infantry, on foot, and screaming the loudest. These are the leaders that command respect and boost morale.

Your Philosophy

There's no single "correct" leadership philosophy. However, be sure that you have one - otherwise you'll find that it's easy to be deemed unworthy of a leadership post - and stick to your guns.