I’m in the middle of a series about nine ingredients that cannot be separated from quality leadership. Like Laurel and Hardy or Batman and Robin, they just go together. Any leader without them is incomplete or unhealthy. Since my blog posts are about leading the next generation, I’m hopeful these short articles will help you deepen your effectiveness as a leader, parent, coach or teacher.
Today, I will focus on values. Fifteen years ago, the big debate in America was whether a leader can operate apart from his or her values. The debate was fostered by the Clinton presidential scandal with Monica Lewinsky. Some felt a leader can do anything they want outside of their job and it won’t effect their work on the job. While that sounds good on paper—it just ain’t so. As leaders, our personal values will surface and somehow affect our decisions, our pursuit of self-preservation, and our goals while on duty.
Elvis Presley once said something profound. He said that “values are like fingerprints, nobody’s are the same, but you leave them on everything you do.” He’s right. Whether you perform songs, or run a nation—you can’t separate what you value from what you do and how you influence others. Values just come out, like it or not.
Have you ever determined what your personal (core) values are? If not, try this. Watch and listen to yourself for about two weeks. Stand back at arms length and observe how you act with others. Do you see a pattern as to what you value? Is it your image? Is it your income? Your calendar and time? Your position on the job? Is it your integrity?
Now try this. Sit down over a few hours and jot down four to six words that best describe the person (and leader) you want to become. These can be action words or words that define qualities inside of you. They can actually be terms or short phrases, but they must represent concepts that define a person, like integrity, passion, tenacity, generosity, love, etc. (I describe this exercise in book one of Habitudes—Images that Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes.)
Values determine the person we’ll become, which in turn, determines the path we take in life and in leadership. Values and leadership are inseparable. Together they create integrity, or one, whole integer. Duplicity occurs when they don’t travel together. In fact, the word that describes a leader who does separate them is: hypocrite.
Here are my questions for you as you think about your values:
- Would others describe you as a person who lives by their values?
- Can others observe your behavior and immediately know what your values are?
- Are you aware of your values as you make decisions?
- Do your values keep you on track during tough times?