In the beginning …,
leaders define who they are, for leadership starts with values. Leaders identify those things they hold dear, those principles from which they will not stray. These become their moral compass, their barometer of right and wrong. And leaders illustrate their belief in and commitment to these values through their behaviors, behaviors that they exhibit daily in all that they do.
It is no wonder then, why leadership and values are so closely tied together, and why you will read so many articles re-enforcing this concept. A word of caution, however: living up to your values may not be as easy as it is defining them. To illustrate this one needs only look at the latest discussions regarding the alleged CIA actions toward real and suspected terrorists. Lines between black and white or good and evil blend together in the real world, when one begins dealing with the complexity of multiple issues, emotions, and personalization.
Articles that talk about leadership values, the traits leaders need to be successful, usually talk about values as ‘nouns,’ or internal characteristics – integrity, trust, openness. Today, I want to talk of values as a ‘verb,’ as action oriented and not a passive state.
To view values as actions suggests the need to do something, not just to be something; it implies that values, and consequently leadership, must be worked at and sustained. In addition to the values that they need to possess, leaders must also look externally to actively value:
- Customer service –A customer should be defined as anyone whom you influence through your actions. A customer may be someone paying for something you offer or provide, a peer, a family member, the church, even a stranger on the street. You interact with various customers almost every minute of every day. The important thing to remember is to have a positive influence on their lives. This is the true definition of leadership. Go out of your way to respect their wishes and to provide them not only what they want, but perhaps more importantly, what they need. Don’t just meet expectations, ‘delight’ them with what you do.
- People – Every person with whom you work, live or interact is deserving of respect. Ask them for their ideas and suggestions. Appreciate and use what they contribute. Play to their strengths. Reward and recognize them for their support and contribution – a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way in this regard. Be compassionate of others but act on facts, not hearsay. Find the good in all and embrace it. Make them feel good about themselves and their contributions and accomplishments.
- Shareholders – No one is an island; we have not reached where we are today without the support of others. Be fiscally responsible when it comes to the investment of others, particularly the monetary investments. Be aware, respectful and appreciative of the physical, mental and emotional investment of others around you. Have a clear vision and strategy developed through communication with all shareholders. Be sure to balance long and short term goals.
- Community/Environment – We do not work in a vacuum. We must be considerate of the environment in which we work and live, both nature and the community. It is important to be attentive to the needs of others and to work for the common good, not parochial objectives. Practice both global responsibility and accountability – for actions and resources – to ensure the sustainability of business and future lives.
In the beginning …, above all else, you must value yourself. To do so you must have an unbiased recognition of your own strengths and weaknesses, the confidence in your abilities to know you can and will make a difference. You must like who you are, what you stand for, and what you do, especially when no one is around to see.
Values are not things, or ideals, they are actions and commitment.