I have been thinking about values a lot lately. What is most important to me? What am I willing to go to the mat for? And what are values anyway?
Maybe values are like the stone we carve the statue of our character into. Our behaviors, like the sculpture’s tools, shape how others will come to see and understand what we value. If we clearly understand ourselves, we can behave in a way that honors what’s at our core – our value system. We create our leadership image with clear values and true behaviors.
I have been spending some time trying to clarify my value system. I’m not sure I’ve been a leader long enough to have perfect clarity but here’s what I have so far.
To me, integrity, honesty and truth supersede all other leadership qualities. The essential features of a good manager –– credibility, decisiveness, vision –– emerge from a commitment to the truth. Having integrity means I will never denigrate a competitor, always keep my promises, and always give people honest feedback even if they don’t want to hear it. Knowing this makes tough decisions easier. I now know in the long run, it’s easier to take the high road.
Leadership is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. I can train a sales person to earn more money. I can hire a motivated job seeker into an amazing new career. And my efforts can make a measurable impact on the company’s performance.
Clarifying my contribution value also helps me manage my time. I now spend time on things that truly matter, and choose which battles to fight and which to let ride.
I’m in love with learning. That’s why I started a master’s degree program three years ago and why I started writing this blog. Not everyone has the same passion for knowledge, but clarifying this value pushes me to keep studying and encouraging others to do the same.
I recently finished Lee Cockerll’s excellent book “Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life At Disney.” Towards the end of the book, Cockerell sums up why values are important in life.
“At the end of your life, no one will care what titles you once held, or how much money you made, or what a big shot you thought you were. If you really care about your legacy – and you should if you want to be a great leader – then take a long, close look at your values and the principles on which they are based. If your character is strong, and you build your actions faithfully on that foundation, you will be remembered as a leader worthy of being followed.”
Makes me wonder what my legacy will be.