Their Personal Values Lead Them As They Lead Others
by Michael D. Hume, M.S.
In my long, storied, and slightly-dodgy career, I’ve had a lot of bosses… but very few have also been leaders. Fewer still have been inspirational leaders. In my estimation, the most distinguishing characteristic of the inspirational leaders has been their relentless insistence upon sticking to their personal values.
Ever find yourself enduring a daily work atmosphere of politics, mercenary behavior, deceit, back-stabbing, and passive-aggressive trickery? I hope you haven’t, and I hope you don’t find yourself in that sort of spot now… but if you have, you might have noticed that the tone of the team is often set at the top. When the boss lacks integrity – when his or her values seem to change with the weather – the team is left to the dark side of human nature.
If you think about it, the best times you’ve ever had at work have probably involved a boss who was stubbornly committed to his or her personal values. For instance, I know a leader who is famous for steadfastly insisting that she (and her team) always do the right thing. That means they often don’t have the option of doing the easy thing, or even the politically-expedient thing…but they always do the right thing. Values are king in this leader’s team. The team works hard – harder than colleagues on other teams – and I won’t say they never complain. But each and every one of them has something that their colleagues don’t have. Each member of this leader’s team sleeps very well at night, knowing they’ve done what’s right.
That’s no small thing.
If, like many of my coaching clients, you are an emerging leader seeking to define your leadership “brand” as inspirational, give this some thought. Would your team be able to articulate what your values are? Would they say you’re steadfast in your commitment to your values? If you’ve said you believe in keeping yourself healthy, do your people sometimes catch you working out, or taking your vitamins? If you’ve proclaimed that personal development is important, do your teammates know about your personal efforts to educate yourself, and to stay informed about what’s going on in the world? If you’ve said “lifestyle balance” is important, do your people see you making plans and looking forward to having fun outside work?
Remember that people won’t always believe what you say. If you’re an inspirational leader, though, they will often believe what you believe. So you need to embody the values you talk about, and that requires a clear set of values to which you are obviously and personally committed.
A little self-reflection, honesty, and journaling can help you sharpen your value-set, which can help you renew your commitment to your personal sense of integrity. There are many right answers to the question “what do you stand for?”… and inspirational leaders know what their own personal answer is.