Are you leading through your values?

A foundational component of leadership which most leaders would agree upon is the need to establish core values personally and corporately. That being said, it’s an extremely low percentage of people who truly take the time to best understand their values and even lower percentage who live them out.

As a personal testimony, I would tell you that the first half of my career I would have told you that my personal core values were:  faith, family, integrity, honesty, hard work, and likely a few others.  If we were to sit across the table from one another and I was able to share my story, you’d likely pick up on some misalignment between my actions and my core values.  While I wasn’t totally off track, there were periods of time I certainty wasn’t leading consistently in alignment with my core values.

Let’s take for example my value of family.  During a period of 2005-2008, I was what most term a workaholic and road warrior.  At stints during this time period, I would walk out the door in the early hours Monday morning, travel out of town, and returned home late Friday evening.  Even when I was in town, it wasn’t uncommon for my family to have to guess what time I’d be home.  My daughter got so comfortable sleeping in my spot in our bed that she’d become upset when I was home and she couldn’t sleep in my bed.  (Yes, this is true.)  Now, I would have been waving the family man banner and stressing the importance of family to the people I led; yet, my actions didn’t support this to be the case.

Using the value of faith as an example.  During the same time period, I was in a discipleship program and practicing many of the right spiritual disciplines.  I routinely read my bible, I prayed regularly, we made it to church most Sunday’s, we were in a life group, we served periodically, and likely a few others disciplines I’ve missed.  Yet, I still wasn’t giving priority to God in my life.  As I relate in my upcoming book, Who’s agenda are you leading?, I was clearly leading to Chris’ agenda.  I never stop to think of what it truly meant to seek God’s agenda and walk as a a true “follower” of Christ.  Thus, my actions really weren’t in full alignment with this value either.

In my High Performance Coaching model, we place a high value on commitment at a level of “whatever it takes”.  I’ve seen leaders do some remarkable things they would have never dreamed possible operating in this mindset.  That being said, I also emphasize the importance of leaders clearly understanding their core values and never operating in violation of these core values.  It never ends well for you personally when you violate core values.

Using my example of travel and family, one might assume I’m saying you can’t be both a family man and have a core value of family.  That would not an accurate representation of what I’m saying.  In this particular example, what I’m saying is if family is a personal core value, we must give priority to this and intentionally seek means of satisfying this core value.  Often when operating in a “whatever it takes” mindset, there tends to be a need for much more intentionality and creativity.  Rather than compromise a core value or a desired result, one must set their minds to creating a win-win with both.  In the case of travel, I’ve seen situations where leaders have arranged their schedules completely around the family schedule and intentionally had family travel with them at times as a means to satisfy both.  These are only a couple possibilities of many others once one sets their minds to it.

Having trouble clearly understand what your core values are?  Well, I use a pretty simple exercise that normally reveals key values.  It’s titled Role Models and goes as follows:

  • Identify 2-3 people you admire
  • Identify 2-3 characteristics for each
  • Circle 2-3 common characteristics
  • Share who, why, common traits
  • These are your personal core values

My 2-3 are my Dad, my wife, and Jesus.  As with previous, my values continue to be faith, family, integrity, honesty.  Additionally, with Lisa and Jesus, I now add values like: unconditional love, grace, patience, perseverance.  An interesting side note is recently we’ve done this exercise as a family and these same values are held for the most part with my wife and children.

Now, staying in the context of today’s post, defining the values is the easy part.  Living these values out and leading through these values is the tough part.  What I’ll share which hopefully is evidence by my family sharing in my personal core values is that I’m much more intentional today about this process than I was 10 years ago.

Great leaders always find a way to lead through their core values.  There clearly will be many times of challenge along the way which is why it is so important you take the time upfront.  If you’d like some help, I’m here to serve!


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