Strong Leaders Need Strong Core Values
Determine What Makes You Tick Before You Help Others
I’ve written before about the importance of having your own set of personal core values. These are the values that help you dictate how you react to life. When you take the time to define your values and put them into action, they will override any “bad day” you might have – while also recognizing that it’s OK to have a bad day.
When you live out your values with authentic intention, you show your employees your true self. Faced with a real person, your employees will react positively instead of negatively. This – not some stoic façade or false collection of leadership skills adopted from a book – is what will translate to becoming a more effective leader.
To further this discussion, I want to share some deeper insights into a few of my personal core values. While I can’t help you uncover the values that drive your life, I hope my examples can help guide you in your journey toward self-discovery.
Trust is the foundation of every relationship, including your relationship with yourself. As in, I literally asked myself, “Am I trustworthy?” Without trust in myself, I couldn’t ask others to trust me, and I certainly couldn’t be a truly successful leader without that trust.
However, the next step was to trust that my needs, feelings, and experiences are valid, all without relying upon external corroboration. When I live from a place of trust, validation comes from within me, and it’s the only kind that matters.
Moreover, when I’m trustworthy with myself and others, I make myself vulnerable. In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Pat Lencioni describes this as vulnerability-based trust. Yes, I know how much courage and strength it takes to be vulnerable with others – especially in a corporate world that, depending on the culture, thrives on being cutthroat – but doing so actually increases the trust I feel in my life. In other words, the more you can be vulnerable, the more people, including your employees, will open up to you.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of that last sentence. In my experience, vulnerability-based trust is something I have with people in my life whom I love. You open up to them at a different level, trusting they won’t blindside you (or do something worse).
I am not talking about predictive trust where you can predict each other’s behavior and patterns, such as when you meet with a long-term client, partner, or vendor. Trust rooted in true vulnerability means people can be open and honest with each other. They feel free to utter sentences like:
· I don’t know the answer.
· I think I made a mistake.
· I need help.
· I want to be more like you.
When you have team members who feel free to be their true selves without fearing repercussions, you can create a strong, powerful dynamic in your company. When your people feel they can trust that everyone has the right intention, they can be comfortable with their own humanity, and that makes them more productive employees.
How do you make this happen? I had to go first! If the leader can’t be vulnerable – or at least perceived as vulnerable – no one else on the team will be. This will result in a lot of unengaging meetings, tepid strategy sessions, and people worried more about doing what’s safe, instead of pushing for new heights.
Trust gives me the gift of surrender. When I can be present and trust “What Is” in the universe, I can relax at a very deep level. This allows me to let go of my anxieties and worries so I can plug into my higher power’s flow.
Value: Kind Truth
Kindness is a form of love, and real power is always based on love. So, kind truth is powerful. I live in power when I live this value. Kind truth gives me the gift of freedom and a beautifully simple way to live. When I offer kind truth to myself and others, I live in the flow of my higher power. I rest in the knowledge that I am always loved and protected, period.
When I wrap truth in kindness, I have the ability to speak my truth. It is an amazing feeling to offer kind truth to myself, to my company, to my employees, and to anyone else. And when I make a misstep, I can be kind with myself and sincere in my apologies to others so I can get back to living out this value. Ultimately, how people respond to me belongs to them, not to me. What belongs to me is my life, my choices, my reactions, and living by my values.
It took me some time to fully understand and embrace this. I spent too many years wanting people to like me. You cannot be an effective leader if you want your employees to like you because you will hold back from saying things that need to be said. I eventually recognized that it was more important for me to actually like ME, and when I did, I found my voice! And I also found that difficult conversations are much easier when wrapped in kindness.
I recently re-read Good to Great by Jim Collins, a great author and someone I admire. One of the book’s driving tenets states that great companies need to confront the brutal facts of their reality. While I practice this in theory, in the moment of this re-reading, it struck me that the words “confront” and “brutal” went against my personal values. I laughed when I realized that one can still confront the brutal facts of their reality with kind truth!
Trust me – employees want their leaders to practice kind truth all day long.
I use laughter to show myself how life can be, how life should be. Laughter makes me feel good, because it makes the world seem lighter and less serious. When I laugh, I’m reminded that life is carefree, playful, and fun.
Don’t misunderstand – life isn’t rainbows and sunshine all the time. Both the serious and fun-loving sides of life are wonderful, perfect, and perfectly accepted. But as someone who actively seeks to strike a keener balance in his life, laughter gives me a break from my serious side when I need it most. By focusing on laughing, smiling, and relaxing, I can show people my whole self (who is not only serious), which is something employees need to see in their leaders.
I spent too many years being a perfectionist. I wasted so much time and energy trying to get to that mountaintop. Reaching for that goal left me stressed out and exhausted from the sheer burden of always being “on my game,” from always performing my perfection. Sadly, as a perfectionist, I usually chose being serious over laughter – I didn’t have time to laugh if I was going to be a high-achieving professional.
Thankfully, I eventually realized that such a state of being is neither sustainable nor truly achievable. So, if you are a perfectionist, let it go. Trust me – just let it go. You are chasing something you will never achieve. By acknowledging that you’re imperfect and that it’s OK to make mistakes, you can accomplish so much more in life and have so much more fun along the way. You’ll also be a better leader without it, because your people will see that it’s OK to make mistakes, especially if they learn from them and make better choices next time.
Ultimately, defining your core values is an essential part of creating the growth plan for your personal life and for your business. Are you interested in exploring how your personal core values can help you become a better leader, partner, friend, parent, and person? Contact me today!