Everyone Values a Leader – But What Does a Leader Value?

Written by on August 5, 2015

What are values? According to ethicist Dr. Robert Rue, they are “the essence of who we are as human beings. Our values get us out of bed every morning” and influence every aspect of our lives, every decision we make. What are your values? That may be a challenging question to answer, but for leaders, it is an incredibly important one. When you understand and clarify what drives you, you can lead authentically – and effectively.

Uncovering and Understanding Your Values

Values keep us grounded and connected to what’s important to us. When we lead with them, we can make better decisions, establish stronger relationships with our teams, provide greater clarity and guidance, and find and create more meaning in our work.

What gets you out of bed every morning? To help find out, a Values Worksheet can be an excellent tool. This is a tool that can be used in any circumstances; it’s helpful if you are shifting the focus of your career, or if you have stepped into a new set of accountabilities, or if you just feel that you who have the sense that you need to recalibrate. This exercise is especially critical for leaders: you have to be absolutely clear on what you own values are to be able to lead your team from a place of authenticity.

In the exercise, you are asked to:

  • Make a list of people you really admire. They could be people you know personally or those you know of. Think about why you believe they are positive and influential role models. For instance, is it their determination? Their ability to communicate? Their transparency?
  • Identify three people you love and trust. What do you love about them? What qualities do you value most?
  • Think about “peak” experiences. When have you felt fully alive? Why do you think you felt that way?
  • Think about activities or times you enjoyed as a child. What were you doing? How did you feel?

After reflecting on these questions and writing down your answers, you can go back over the worksheet and note the areas that come up more than once. Those are likely the values you hold dear. The next step is asking: What does that mean? How does that work with where I am today? This exercise can be a jumping-off point, an avenue into figuring out how you show up in the world, what you really want to create, and how your values manifest themselves in your leadership style. Maybe you’ll discover you’re right where you need and want to be.

Or maybe you’ll discover that your values don’t show up in your leadership. Then you can ask yourself: “How authentic am I as a leader? If I’m not authentic, can I really be effective?”

The Birkman Assessment

The Birkman Assessment is also useful in this endeavor. This multi-dimensional tool can help you understand your strengths, needs, and behaviors. For instance, do you need a fair amount of reflective time? Or do you thrive in a fast-paced environment?

In addition, the Birkman looks at stress behaviors. How do you behave when you’re under pressure, when your needs aren’t being met? If you are a person who needs substantial time to think and process information, for instance, what kind of behaviors might show up if you’re in a fast-paced environment? How might they diminish your effectiveness as a leader?

These insights can help you figure out how to operate mainly from your areas of strength, while managing stress behaviors more effectively. It is often helpful to use both tools to narrow down your core set of values and determine what conditions you need in order to be your best as a leader.

If you find that your needs are not being met or that you’re not in an environment that supports your values, do you want to work on changing the environment or shifting your career to one that might be better suited to your values? Discovering the answers can help you make better, more fulfilling, decisions – both for yourself and for your team.

Your values are the essence of who you are; are they also be the essence of how you lead?