Whether you are engaging with clients or hiring employees to scale your business, your personal values are reflected in every aspect of your leadership style. Think of your values as the roots of a tree. A tree with strong roots supports the ecosystem around it. Similarly, a leader with strong values supports an organization’s culture and nurtures growth, learning, and innovation.
If you are a young leader who has only begun shouldering more responsibility, discovering your personal values can be part of the journey towards finding your purpose. Today, when so many things compete for your attention, having a tool that helps prioritize where you spend your time is essential. Values can become that guiding force.
You may think that values are morals or ethics. They’re really not. Values are what is important to you, what you ‘value, and what gives you purpose. Just as organizations have values, so do people. Values are what you stand for; they represent your unique, individual essence. Even if two people happen to pick the same value, such as integrity, each can employ it differently in his or her daily actions and interactions.
When you don’t know your values, encountering personal and professional questions can become a major source of stress and internal conflict. Bringing our values into action may take a little time, but when you are done with this effort, decision making becomes easier.
Values aren’t something you create, they’re something to be discovered. Study your obsession(s). This can give you clues about your values. If all you care about is work, then one of your core values can be ‘perseverance’. If you love taking care of those around you, maybe one of your values is ‘loyalty’ or ‘compassion’. Would you miss your own birthday party to go to the gym? ‘Self-competition’ or ‘dedication’ may be one of your values.
Defining what a certain value means to you is a key next step. To me, innovation means thinking outside the box, being open to new ideas, offering unique solutions to my clients. For you, it may mean something else. Start by listing the values you have identified as important to you. Define what each means to you as best you can.
Then, rate each value on a relevancy scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest. I highly recommend keeping your core values to the magic number of five. Having too many values in your leadership framework will confuse you rather than guiding you. There’s a simple logic behind it—if you value everything, you value nothing.
In order to keep them in front and center of your mind, have a visual reminder of your values. Here, your creativity comes into play. Create a screensaver or find a picture that represents one of your values. Or, choose a song that represents one or more of your values.
Identifying my core values helped me know the kind of people to hire and even the type of clients to attract. By identifying and living your values, you can lay the foundation for a more grounded and confident leadership. When faced with a complex decision, these values will guide you. For instance, if one of your personal values is exploration, you would not mind transitioning into a different role within your organization.
As your definition of success changes, your personal values can change, too. Therefore, keeping in touch with your values is a lifelong exercise. You should continuously revisit them, especially when you start feeling unbalanced and you can’t quite figure out why.
Final Thought: Self-discovery is an important facet of effective leadership. A leader without a clear set of personal values will be directionless, and thus, ineffective.