Counting Down the Top 7 Principles for Federal Leadership: An Introduction

Counting Down the Top 7 Principles for Federal Leadership: An Introduction

Greed is a form of principle. So, too, are concepts such as power, narcissism, tribalism, and selfishness. Those are not the kinds of principles that Principle Based Politics has in mind. Instead, in a series of seven posts, we will enumerate and explicate the seven principles we see as most important for an elected leader of our federal government to personify.

All seven are crucial. We are not pollsters (thankfully enough!), but the belief here is that these principles are what most voters want most to see. We also are not mind readers (although that might be more fun), but we think all well-intentioned party officials and politicians would agree with every one of the seven.

Why seven? To be honest—which you ultimately will see is a principle very important to us—we set out to prepare a “Top Ten” list.* We did come up with our seven, plus three additional ones, but the other three either were not quite as fundamental to excellent federal leadership or they were more applicable to the government as a whole than to individual leaders. (Note: After this series on individual principles, we will publish a similar set relevant to the government itself.) Also, some of the ten overlapped with the top seven we had identified. So, instead of a top ten list, we could have called this a “Special Seven,” but we won’t.

*As an aside, to bring levity to a serious topic, let us just add that there are plenty of Top 10 lists already these days. Maybe David Letterman popularized them. Maybe it was the need to bring eyeballs to web pages. But now we have everything up to and including “Top 10 Top 10 Lists” out there. Websites are devoted to such things. At, you can find these (and many more on just the first page):

  1. Top Ten Coolest Facts About Sloths
  2. Top 10 Best Dystopian Novels
  3. Top Ten Funniest and Most Useless Things You Can Buy on Amazon
  4. Top Ten Best Online Trading Companies
  5. Top Ten Things People Should Have Learned in School, and Didn’t
  6. Top 10 Failed Products in Fast Food
  7. Top Ten Video Game Characters
  8. Top Ten Greatest Internet Memes
  9. Top 10 Worst Things About the “Holiday Season”
  10. Top Ten Worst Things to Be the God or Goddess Of

There you are. If you wanted a Top 10 List, now you have one.

You will be reminded in reading our next seven posts that there really are good, positive principles that political leaders—and all other participants in the political food chain—can embody. There also is a plethora of support for each of the principles we will identify; they have been the subjects of famous speeches, books have been written about some of them, laws built on them, and lives devoted to them. It will be encouraging.

Unfortunately, however, another reaction you may have is this: “Why don’t we see more politicians with these principles? For that matter, why don’t all politicians live out these principles?” Those concerns are what drive Principle Based Politics in our mission to promote the reliance on principles when taking political actions. Those concerns motivate us to push for more principled candidates. Those concerns inspire us to lead this campaign of ideas.

Our country is better served not with political action committees, but with political action principles.

Now, we are not saying to politicians or anyone else that they must espouse principles they do not have or with which they disagree. We will try not to be didactic or to hector people to “be this way…you must have these principles.” What we sincerely are encouraging is depicted in the following chart.

Our message to voters Our message to politicians
Nominate only candidates who demonstrate sound, positive principles that will move the United States of America forward. Follow the five-step process delineated in our previous post: (1) Identify the decision or action at issue, (2) determine which principles apply, (3) consider which principles control, (4) analyze the impact of principles on outcomes, and (5) decide or act in accordance with this analysis.
Hold your elected representatives in Congress and the White House to high standards of principle in their decision making and conduct. If you share the seven principles, prioritize them in your policymaking and decisions.

By laying out our set of seven leadership principles, we hope to inspire and to engage you in this cause. We ask that you participate by commenting on the principles we itemize. Even before we begin the countdown with the next post, feel free to have a little fun predicting the seven principles. Clue: Each principle is a single word (such as the principles of “responsibility” or “teamwork”—principles that did not make our top seven because they overlap or otherwise were excluded). If you already know the seven, try predicting the value we place on them. Please also feel free to critique our selections as we reveal them. We will enjoy the dialogue and appreciate your interest in this important topic.

Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics.

Look for our posts twice each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.

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