Why we need values to lead like Mavericks. I’m asked often about values. What do I mean by values? How do we know what ours are? Why do they matter?
If you think of yourself as a Maverick Leader, (mavericks are defined by Judith Germain as wilfully independent people. Click the link above to see a definition of a Maverick Leader), you may need them even more than others. Values keep us on track, pointing towards our north star and operating with a framework that helps to define our meaning and purpose as leaders.
If you study leadership, one of the first tasks at hand is to determine who you are as a leader. Part of that process is to examine your values. In our company, we were asked to pick just four values to define our leadership practice. I chose love, inclusivity, perseverance and trust.
I chose them because each covered so many others. In love there is empathy, compassion and kindness. In inclusivity there is respect, belonging and continuous learning. In perseverance there is resilience, integrity and teamwork. In trust there is effort, family, leadership.
If you are interested in doing this work as well, my favourite FREE tool is the Personal Values Assessment available through the Barrett Values Centre. The assessment asks you to pick ten values from a long list of possibilities.
It isn’t easy.
You’ll have ten that speak to you and then you will want to add others. To do so you must delete something. The results, at least for me, have been pretty true to how I see myself as a leader.
Here is what a recent assessment said about my values as a leader:
“Your values show: You are true to yourself and your principles and build confidence with others by living your life accordingly. You show a strong sense of caring and feel empathy for others. Seeking new opportunities to develop and grow keeps you consistently challenged. Close relationships are of the utmost importance to you and they are central in the decisions that you make. Modesty and unpretentiousness are apparent in your interactions with others. You enjoy having opportunities to guide and direct others. You are not afraid to take charge. Demonstrating determination and resolution to follow through ensure that you can fulfil your aims. You strive to show consideration to others and want to feel that this same courtesy is extended to you. You enjoy working with others and like to cooperate and share experiences.”
Combined with other work done with Executive Coaches, including an EQ-I assessment, this is a pretty good summation of how I see my leadership practice.
So why does it matter?
Understanding who we are as leaders allows us to recognise both our strengths and areas of challenge. For instance, whilst I love my ability to be empathetic, it can also get me in trouble. Sometimes I care too much. Yes, that’s really a thing. Caring too much can keep you from providing the necessary feedback to a colleague or employee. Feedback is a gift that promotes growth and deepens relationships.
A balanced approach to empathy allows you to deliver it well.
Too much empathy may also cause you to take on the problems of others and negatively impact your own work. I recall a role where I advocated for staff to be paid better. I was concerned about the massive gap between my earnings and those who worked with me. Instead of feeling great about how well I was doing, I struggled with the lack of impact I had on improving the position of others.
That’s empathy in overdrive.
Values help you to define culture, hire staff, make decisions, write policies and procedures and to lead. They help you choose the organisations you want to work with and the causes that matter. They shape our friendships and approach to all relationships. Everything you do reflects your values.
When our workplace values are misaligned with either those espoused by the organisation or those we hold dear, we will not be successful. Most organisations today list their values on their website. Respect, Transparency Innovation, Courage are on the list. Yet, employees don’t know what’s going on in the organisation. Many feel their voices are not heard. Respect is never defined and so screaming executives are not uncommon. Innovation is neither understood or embraced. Courage is what it would take if you felt respected enough to speak up.
Values only work if you live them. If you check in on them from time to time. You must define and exhibit he behaviours that demonstrate those values. You must discuss how values “feel” in your life and in your workplace. A great tool for to do this work, the Emotional Culture Deck, created by Jeremy Dean can help you in this process as can the creation of a workplace manifesto that takes values and declares how they will be expressed.
Want to be a great leader? Take the time to get to know yourself and what matters to you.