Are you a values aligned leader?

What values are you modelling in daily interactions with team members, peers, bosses, and customers? Who are you being when you do what you do? In our “get it done,” fast-paced work environment, this is not an easy question to consider. Yet the servant leader – the values aligned leader – must be hyper-aware of how he or she is operating within the business, in every interaction, every day.

I have coached dozens of senior leaders who work hard to demonstrate values alignment in their personal and professional lives. Over hundreds of conversations, I’ve discovered three vital rules that help keep the values aligned leader on track.  By following these rules, you can ensure that your plans, decisions, and actions honour the principles you want to demonstrate.

1. State your intentions

First, if you have not done so already, formally define your personal purpose and values. Your purpose is what you want to accomplish, for whom, and to what end. Your purpose is “present” oriented (vision is “future” oriented), so your focus is on the work, the team, and the opportunity that today offers. Values, defined in behavioural terms, enable you to be clear about how you’ll go about accomplishing your goals.

Once you have formalized your personal purpose and values statement, share it with your team, your peers, and your boss. Let them know that it is a “working document” that will evolve over time as experience helps you learn how to refine your statement. Let them know that you will examine your every plan, decision, and action in light of the standards your purpose and values statement represents and you’ll need their help to stay on track.

2. Behave in alignment, consistently

Once you have defined and shared your personal purpose and values, your responsibility is then to consistently act on those standards. Evaluate decisions, actions, and plans based on how they well they align with your purpose and values. With focus, you will clearly understand the most values aligned decision or action. If there is any confusion about what values aligned decision or action is, check it out with trusted partners in your workplace – direct reports, peers, your boss, internal customers, etc. They may provide insight into the best solution to those “grey area” issues.

You will behave in such a way that you walk out of the office, plant, facility, etc. at the end of each day with your “head held high,” strong in the knowledge that you did your best to behave according to your stated purpose and values.

3. Actively seek and embrace feedback

Perception is a fact; you must enable open and honest feedback between you and your reports, peers, and boss to ensure your values aligned intentions are in fact seen as such by these key players. Say to them, “I am trying to consistently act on my defined purpose and values. In your view, how am I doing? What could I do better? What concerns do you have?”

You will likely have to structure values feedback discussions; they are unfortunately too rare in today’s workplace. With practice – on everyone’s part – these values feedback discussions can become easier to conduct.

You may receive feedback that is different than how you perceive your plans, decisions, and actions. When that happens, don’t defend; this is a chance to learn about values alignment! Ask, “Tell me more. What can I do differently next time to ensure I’m making the best decision?” When the conversation ends, honestly thank them for taking the time to help you understand their viewpoint.

You’ll need to spend time every week with these three requirements – refining your purpose and values, sharing them with your key players, and soliciting feedback. Leaders that do this well have enjoyed higher performance (by self and team) and higher employee work passion.

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

This article was updated in December 2020

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He shares insights on organizational culture, servant leadership, employee engagement, and workplace inspiration.

He writes books and articles and records podcasts.

In his free time, he’s a working musician with the Brian Raine band in Denver, CO.