Your personal values are going to be critical to your success as a next-generation-leader and in this post I'm going to explain why as succinctly as I can.
I could start this post with a well-researched piece including back-links to HBR and Forbes, explaining the history of values, the difference between values, morals and ethics and a (probably over-familiar) quote from Aristotle or Socrates or Gandhi.
But let’s face it, it’s been done already and (dare I say it?) it’s a bit boring.
Understanding why your personal values are so important to you as a leader is more of a visceral thing than a theoretical thing (note the use of technical terminology like “thing”, do let me know if I’m failing in my mission to avoid jargon)
So instead I’m going to invite you to participate in a little experiential learning (aka learning by doing and then thinking about what you did and how it went).
Even if you know nothing whatsoever about values I guarantee you’ll be able to answer this question.
Off the top of your head write down what you think President Trump’s top 5 personal values are. Don’t second guess yourself, just go with your gut instinct.
And now use the same process and write down what you think President Obama’s top 5 personal values are.
I bet you have two entirely different lists of nouns there - am I right?
We don’t need to get into a discussion about which of them is right and which of them is wrong (please let's NOT do that), all we need to note is that
- You make assumptions about a person’s personal values based on their behaviour
- You feel drawn to people whose behaviour makes it look like they share your values (even if you don’t know what your values are)
- You feel repelled by people whose behaviour makes it look like they don’t share your values (even if you don’t know what your values are)
- When you feel that repulsion it makes it almost impossible to take that person’s views seriously because they are so clearly UTTERLY WRONG AND POSSIBLY DERANGED!!!!!!
- You won’t be lead by someone whose values you don’t share.
And there you have your five reasons why your personal values are so important to you as a leader.
The people you lead will be making assumptions about your values based on the way you behave, and they will use those assumptions to decide whether to follow you or not.
Not just at work, but in every aspect of your life.
It’s what your teenagers are doing during those “rebellious” years - they’re working out what your values are and deciding whether they want to continue to go along with your way of doing things or not.
Kevin the Teenager’s cry of “God, It’s SO unfair” is another way of saying
“Mama, Papa, I feel that I must distance myself from your stance in this matter, because my analysis shows me that we have differing values”.
It’s why you may have been living in a news filter bubble over the past year or so, keeping away from political views that you don’t agree with and/or find offensive.
And it’s likely to have been a factor in at least one of your relationship breakdowns - you made assumptions about your partner’s values based on their behaviour when you first got together, but at some point the ugly truth dawned and then you couldn’t wait to escape.
So - as a leader, the people you need to have following you are judging you based on what they think your values are, and you’ll only get their support if they like what they see.
The crucial missing piece here is that your behaviour is not always a good indicator of your personal values because the people watching you don’t know what your intentions are unless you tell them.
All they can do is think about what their own intentions would be if they were to behave in the way you did - and if they would only do or say what you just did or said because they reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally wanted to piss people off, they’re going to assume that was your intention too.
And they’re going to take it personally.
So what can you do about it?
There are two things.
- Firstly, you need to clarify exactly what your personal values are and what they mean to you. To do that, click here to download my free workbook, Bring Your Values To Life
- Then you need to make them explicit, by explaining exactly why you are doing what you’re doing, so no-one has to wonder about your intentions. You'll be able to do that easily once you've gone through the workbook.