As a leader, the only effective way you can direct your life and the lives of others is to truly know what you stand for. Your personal principles, or values, direct your thoughts, priorities, preferences, and actions. The aspects of life that you value shape your character, which determine how you lead. They determine how you do everything.
Unfortunately, many leaders haven’t identified their values, and often find their roles frustrating, confusing, or unfulfilling. If a leader’s experience can be described this way, imagine what their people are experiencing. If you struggle with internal conflicts, or have a sense of something important missing from your life, assess your values.
Max Klau states in his Harvard Business Review article, Twenty-First Century Leadership: It’s All About Values, that a significant purpose of personal values is to serve a cause greater than yourself. Great leaders have a vision of serving by contributing to a cause where they try not to be the focal point. This requires a set of values based on benefiting others.
Your values are simply your ideals, the foundational principles that you live by. They are the important standards you feel should govern body, mind, and spirit, manifested throughout the course of your personal and business life. Generally people resonate most with a handful of values, each having a great influence on their character. Prioritizing just a few prevents losing focus.
Some examples of personal values that leaders have been known to embrace:
- Serving others
- Hard Work
The list is broad. No two leaders will have the same set of core values. They are almost as unique as fingerprints. Your values establish your personal standards for what is right and wrong, acceptable and not acceptable. They are the basis for judging your personal progress of growth, your impact on your areas of responsibility, the contributions you’ve made, and the satisfaction you receive.
Values Are Barometers
Paul Larsen, in his book, Find Your Voice As A Leader, (Aviva Publishing, 2016) recognizes that because we set our personal standards with our values, they serve as gauges or barometers for the important things in our lives.
Your sense of success is based on how well you feel you’re upholding your values. If relationships are a high value, you can assess how many new ones you made, or how many struggling ones you mended. If you value humility, you can judge how well you allowed others to be lifted up and recognized.
As a leader, your satisfaction or fulfillment can be gauged by your values of serving or hard work. You are rewarded with great feelings and a sense of worth when your values lead you to make a positive impact in these areas.
A high value of optimism or excellence can impact your emotional level or state of energy. Similarly, a high value of loyalty or commitment impacts your perception and approach to challenges, endurance, and perseverance.
Values As Warnings
Larsen also sites that leaders whose roles are misaligned with their values experience inner conflict, stress, or frustration. You may be a leader facing hardships without recognizing the reasons. An inner look at your values may reveal some contradictions in your business life that need to be addressed.
If you value transparency and are required to be vague in dealing with difficult corporate issues with your people, you will be torn inside. Your emotions and spirit will suffer by going down a contrary path.
If you value excellence, you will be discouraged and defeated if the pressures of your environment force your people to submit substandard work. Your inner self is in conflict with your actions.
If you value relationships, you will be distressed if your workload doesn’t permit you to engage your people in ways that allow you to know them. You’ll sense an emptiness inside that won’t go away.
Look for the warning signs. Your responses to situations, your confidence and positivity, or your quality of relationships can be affected by actions that contradict your values. This is another reason why assessing your values is so critical. Allow a coach or mentor take you through the process of identifying those ideals that you strongly believe in.
Assess your job, your duties, and your career path, to see where you fit and where you don’t. Make changes before a value-action misalignment takes you further down a painful path. Neither you nor your people benefit if you are in conflict with your values.
Making Use of Your Values
Leaders who follow their values are seen as authentic, and are appreciated because they’re genuine and trustworthy. Use your values and the related personal attributes to enhance your environment. Set a vision based on value-oriented choices and hone in on a path for the future; for yourself and your organization.
Your values establish your culture. You set standards for what is right and wrong; just the kind of leadership people seek. The virtues and principles you stand for can help you establish organizational goals. By being the example of honorable values, you motivate staff to implement your vision.
Valuing people builds the relationships that create engagement and investment. An authentic, relational culture fosters value-based responses, accountability, and higher accomplishments. The values of trust and respect forge truthfulness and a focus on people. Leaders who earn the trust of their people experience a special unity that enhances their entire organization.
Put your values to work in your leadership style, decision making, and goal setting. As the people in your organization recognize, respect, and adopt your values, they are embedded in the organizational culture.
Renewing Your Values
As a leader, you grow into your leadership skills. Experience and tenure give you the opportunity to see how your values evolve. Wisdom comes from successes and failures, and leads to the understanding that some things are more meaningful than you originally thought.
Seeing how relationships have been so vital for you and your organization leads you to place a higher value on people. Perhaps some relational failures came with a heavy price. By adjusting your values, the importance of engaging and helping people is enhanced. Everyone benefits from your renewed perspective.
If you have learned the hard way that taking credit for the contributions of others causes them to distrust you, your values probably needed review. Valuing humility and trust more than you once did can be a change brought on from past mistakes. Everyone has some character flaws. Great leaders learn from their mistakes and evolve their values.
Getting caught by a customer for being deceptive will likely cause you to revalue the ideal of integrity. Truthfulness or accountability may be hard lessons to learn, but as long as improvements are made and damages are atoned, a renewing of values will send you off in a better direction.
Values are worth assessing periodically. Take stock of yourself, what you stand for, and what mindsets you may need to adjust. Some good questions to ask yourself are: what’s worth standing for… and why?
Keep your values in mind as you lead. They will be evident in your actions, decisions, and conversations. Your values will guide your thinking, responses, goals, and vision. Your people will see a nobler, genuine, trustworthy leader who is worth following.
Creator of the KASHBOX: Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills, Habits
Helping You Realize Your Potential
I help people discover their potential, expand and develop the skills and attitudes necessary to achieve a higher degree of personal and professional success and create a plan that enables them to balance the profit motives of their business with the personal motives of their lives.