The first question leaders must ask of themselves before they begin to lead is: What are my values? Values are what are at the core of each of us whether you are leading or following. It is also what allows you to maintain your strength, emotional intelligence when you are faced with issues of doom and need to make a tough decision that is economically, socially, politically and behaviorally unpopular and yet morally right to your values. It also allows you to keep your ego in check when you are having an amazing success and newspapers are calling, your picture is on Magazine covers, your flying on your own jet, and you are earning more money than you thought was possible.
Just understanding your values does not mean that you are behaving according to them. In fact this is often a complaint by senior management teams that have gone through value clarification exercises and find that nothing has changed within the organization or themselves. Discovering and then declaring your values is only the first step in the process. Many people break there own values and need help finding a path back to them. Many people have difficulty naming their values. They can describe them in general but not in specific. This will not do if you are aiming to be an exceptional leader.
It is “the” governor of your behavior, before, during and after. If you ask your self how does this situation align with my values and it doesn’t you know that to cross over that line and make that decision will have internal consequences to you. You have crossed that line know when you are doing it. You get that kind of nauseated feeling in your stomach, or the spinning question in the back of your head as your trying to come to a decision that you know is right thing to do. Please complete the following exercise this month for our coaching work and send me a copy of the completed report once you have had a chance to review it. Log-in to CEOTest. The exercise will take approximately 60 minutes.
Why six values? I have been doing this with leaders for years and found that even after completing this exercise that they have a difficult time remembering what their core values are. They may spend an hour or more on this exercise and a month goes by and if they do not do something with them they get filed in long term memory at the back of the cabinet. Perhaps misfiled under, not important.
Once you are clear about these values share them with those closest to you. They will be there to remind you when you are about to go into the gray area, or struggling with your ego. This advice has not come without some personal embarrassment for me. I can remember more than one time when my ego was winning the battle and Lois Dirksen a Senior Vice President at our company said, “Gary that does not sound like you. Do you really want to move in that direction?” That was all it took, to bring my behaviors back in line with my values and I will never know if she was not there to ask me the question which part of me would have won out, the values that I am committed to or the big win at the cost of my core self. Lois new me well enough and was and is crystal clear about my values as a leader. If she did not know them she may have been only using her values to move the direction she wanted the situation to go. She and those on my team new my values. It allowed me to be a stronger leader. And provide clearer direction to the team and obviously leadership back to me as Lois did.
Overview of the Values Assessment Tool
Remember this is not some abstractaction a sign post it is the core of what you believe. It is not someone outside of yourself asking you to believe, it is who you are, your essence. We all have moments when the stakes are high when the temptation to place our values aside. You have chosen to be a leader and because of this choice the temptations that will be offered along the way will be that much greater. It sure would make it even easier if we are not clear on what they are. Ask yourself do I know my own values well enough to tell those you lead what they are and which are the most important to you and how you would define them?