How Your Personal Values Can Help You Be a Better Leader

Our values are like a guiding compass, helping us experience the world in a way that’s unique to us, motivating and inspiring us as we move through life. Our values also anchor us to who we are, both at home and at work.

Essentially, our values form the basis of our identities. And, as such, they play a huge part in how we operate as leaders. In fact, your identity as a person becomes your identity as a leader, which, in turn, helps to create the impact on the people and organization in which you serve.

Unfortunately, many leaders don’t spend the necessary time and energy tuning in to their personal values. They may understand values on a superficial, surface level, but they rarely dig into the beliefs and feelings that drive the creation of their values.

For example, leaders may say that they value profits, excellence, high standards and the ongoing success of their organizations. Or they may say that they value their people and a commitment to operating ethically. These are all wonderful concepts to believe in, and they can certainly drive an organization’s success, but if values are not fully demonstrated by leaders themselves, then an important link in the chain of command is missing that can trip up everything from productivity to employee engagement.

All this to say is that the discussion around values is intrinsically linked to being a grounded, self-aware leader. When you are aware of how your values drive your thinking, behavior and decision making, you can make better choices for yourself and have a more positive impact on those around you. Otherwise, you will tend to operate in auto-pilot mode, which could spell disaster for your career and your organization.

As with everything I discuss in this blog, I recommend you take a step back and spend some quality time reviewing how your values affect your role and you as a person. With everything we are dealing with in our constantly changing workplace and world, it is imperative that you take stock from time to time to ensure you are inwardly feeling congruent with your outward behavior.

How to Identify Your Values

Think about the qualities that contribute to excellent leadership. Are some or all the following among your list of beliefs and behaviors that align with who you are?

  • Integrity
  • Self-awareness
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Respect
  • Influence
  • Authenticity
  • Honesty
  • Passion
  • Innovation
  • Courage
  • Humility
  • Trust
  • Service
  • Vision
  • Inspiration
  • Accountability
  • Confidence
  • Optimism
  • Fairness

These are all wonderful qualities for a leader to possess, and you probably exhibit many of them regularly. But I find that sometimes, it’s easier to think we are presenting as aligned with these values at work, and yet, we are not consciously ensuring that we are “walking the talk” by demonstrating our values alignment with our actions. Unless you explore the meaning of a value as it applies to your life and experiences then it isn’t truly a value, is it?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to speak and act with integrity, and the words I listed above all represent qualities that leaders should possess. But, as I mentioned, it pays to go deeper and explore another layer as it relates to defining your personal values.

These following steps can help you reflect to identify your personal values:

#1 — Banish Your Preconceived Notions

It’s easy for leaders to assume they somehow automatically possess the values that are conducive to leadership excellence. But to truly get in touch with one’s values, it’s necessary to start from scratch and let go of those assumptions.

You may be able to recite a list of words like the ones above, but that does not equate with a real understanding of your values. Until you take the time to explore them in a meaningful way, they are little more than aspirational concepts which do nothing to help you excel.

#2 — Observe the Meaningful Moments of Your Life

Remembering the most meaningful moments of your life can help you get in touch with your core values. Consider the past happy and fulfilling experiences you have had. How would you describe those “memorable experiences?” What were you doing? How did you feel? What values were you exemplifying during these moments?

Examples of these meaningful moments often involve achieving difficult goals, feeling in awe and wonder at nature, creating something artistic, overcoming adversity and experiencing critical and deep moments with family or friends. They can be as grand as experiencing the birth of a child, the ascension of a mountain peak or a huge promotion. Or they can be as seemingly simple as losing yourself in a book or a piece of music.

Conversely, if you felt frustrated or angry at other pivotal times in your life, understand that these were probably times where you didn’t feel in alignment with your values. Reviewing what those experiences were like will bring forth awareness about what values you felt were being compromised or ignored.

#3 — Dig a Little Deeper for Clarity

As you consider the meaningful moments of your life, your core values will begin to reveal themselves. For example, remember a promotion you received for your hard work probably made you feel elated and fulfilled. But these feelings are not what core values are, therefore, I suggest you explore your feelings and try to determine why you felt so happy and fulfilled.

You’ll likely conclude that it wasn’t the promotion or extra money that made you happy but the connection you feel with others which is so meaningful and memorable. You can apply this process to all the important moments in your life and it is a great step towards identifying your truest, most deeply held values that drive your thinking and behaviors.

How Values Play into Leadership Excellence

The best leaders don’t pay lip service to their values. They know themselves deeply, and they understand the core values that drive them.

Identifying your values will help you understand more deeply who you really are as a human being. It will give you the grounding you need to lead with consistency and excellence. As a result, your life will become richer and more fulfilling, and your leadership will reflect the best version of yourself.

Discover More about Leadership and Values

Are you curious about how you can make the connection between your personal values and your ability to lead?

This topic is one that I am very passionate about, so if you want to discuss your leadership and values journey, please reach out. I am happy to share a self-led values exercise that can assist you. You can call me 1-855-871-3374 or send an email at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca to start the conversation! I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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