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P&G’s 10 Commandments of Leadership, Early 1980’s

P&G’s 10 Commandments of Leadership, Early 1980’s

I was cleaning out some old files and came across a fantastic one-page document: The Ten Commandments of Leadership. It was from the early 1980’s, early in my tenure at Procter & Gamble. I don’t remember anything regarding who wrote it or the intended purpose… but boy has it aged well!

This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise; the folks at P&G have long been committed to leadership development.

The list includes the following:

  1. Set priorities
  2. Be willing to become personally involved in tough problems
  3. Be tough but fair with people
  4. Be committed
  5. Set and demand high standards of excellence
  6. Have a strong sense of urgency
  7. Pay attention to details
  8. Be innovative
  9. Work hard
  10. Have fun at what you’re doing

Personally, I really love “set priorities” and “be willing to become personally involved in tough problems”. And the rest of the list seems as sound today as it did then.

Each of the ten commandments has accompanying detail.

While much of the language could certainly be modernized, the descriptions attached with each commandment seem pretty spot on today as they were forty years ago.

The list follows:


1. Set priorities. Do not be afraid to continually define and redefine immediate priorities. Your priorities will change because the environment in which you operate will change. The environment around you is a dynamic process that requires flexibility. Establishing priorities is the only way to really identify and focus on what is important.

2. Be willing to become personally involved in tough problems. Do not organize around the problem. Confront it yourself and eliminate it.

3. Be tough but fair with people. This does not mean being heartless or irresponsible, but it is important to realize that you cannot satisfy all of the people any of the time. Effectiveness depends to a great extent on an ability to get things done through and with people. The only way to do that is to be firm and fair.

4. Be committed. Assume personal responsibility for the growth and development of your business and the people working on your business.

5. Set and demand high standards of excellence. You cannot accept mediocrity. Every time you take the easy approach, you will have a negative effect on the people around you – an impact that you will have to live with for a long time. Try to improve on everything in which you become involved, and be dedicated to excellence in everything you do.

6. Have a strong sense of urgency. Make things happen and do not let them happen to you.

7. Pay attention to details. Take the time to get detailed knowledge needed to make the right decision. Obtaining the facts is the key to good decision making.

8. Be innovative. Do not be afraid to make a mistake, appear illogical by rethinking decisions, or to accept a new challenge. At the same time, be flexible enough to continually reassess a situation so that the decisions necessary for the good of the business can be made.

9. Work hard. All good things require effort.

10. Have fun at what you are doing. Keep things in their proper perspective and avoid taking yourself too seriously. Trust that everything usually works out right in the long term if the effort was there in the beginning.

What do you think? What would you add, subtract or change?

Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Zillow Group, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Ulta Beauty, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.