All Leaders Need To Ask Themselves One Question

The definition of entropy is 1) a lack of order or predictability; 2) gradual decline into disorder.

Entropy is why organizations need leaders. It is why your program, staff, student-athletes, and support staff will not “accidentally” come into order, alignment, and health.

If left alone, things will always revert back to a lack of order, misalignment, and unhealth.

This is true of organizations and people. I have never uttered this or anything close to this statement “Over the last several weeks, without even thinking about it, I have been eating better, my exercising has increased, I have avoided all negative social media and I read for two hours a day.”

I have, however, said the opposite of all those things.

To reiterate, things/people become more chaotic, more unhealthy, less structured and far less progressive when left alone.

This is why operating principles in leadership are so crucial.


A principle is a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.

We all have principles that guide us. Some are well thought out, intentional, and explicitly stated. Others are not stated, are by default, and often feel like they are almost subconscious.

As leaders, we must have operating principles that we strongly believe are good for our program’s growth, development, health. And they must be explicitly stated.

For example, let’s say one of your principles is that feedback is a must for staff and athletes’ growth. You are sold that creating a culture of healthy feedback in your program is crucial to being both successful but also healthy.

This operating principle should guide you… it should help frame how you operate in practice, post-practice routines, it should form the rhythms and habits in the office with your assistants, etc.


If we all operate by principles, some which are intentional and created for progress and health and other flow from our default, natural inclinations, we have a choice to make. Do we create the program and life we want to have or do we allow it to happen out of our default settings?

If you are like me, your default settings are often not how you want to run your program, life, family, or anything for that matter.

Create a large chunk of time in your schedule and spend that time figuring out what the operating principles of your life and program are (recruiting principles, player development principles, staff development principles, hiring principles, etc).

I don’t know what the right number of principles for each area is but I do know if you have too many principles, you will really have none.

Come up with the key operating principles that will guide each area of your program as well as yourself.


I have done this with my coaching business. I currently coach coaches 1 on 1 and in small groups or cohorts… as well as coaching athletic directors in a cohort setting.

My operating principles are:

  • Be curious and ask great questions…info doesn’t change people.
  • Over prepare for each session/cohort.
  • Encourage, exhort, and challenge.
  • I must personally be growing to help others grow.
  • Play the long game, not the short game.

That’s it. five principles to guide my coaching business. In working with coaches as well as interviewing coaches for my podcast, it is really obvious which leaders have crystal clear principles they operate under.

Those with operating principles are clear how they want to get from point A to point B. Those without a clear set of guiding principles are usually vague, foggy, and are not able to articulate how to get from A to B.

PS. Language can sometimes get confusing. Some people will use ‘principles’ and some will use the term ‘values’  and others will use them interchangeably. I am not dogmatic on this topic, but I do think ‘values’ always seem a little more vague as opposed to operating principles. Regardless of what language you use, it is important that you clearly define what are the keys to developing your people and that you are consistent with the messaging and language.


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Travis Wyckoff

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