What Do You Value?
A Requisite Guide to Finding Your Defining Values as a Leader
As a human being and a leader, it’s important to have a solid set of core values. Values define who we are and how we operate day-to-day. While we all have underlying values, most of us don’t document them and put them out in the world, but that’s incredibly important. Not only does writing down your values create credibility and consistency, it defines your commitment. With these cornerstones you hold yourself accountable, much like a business or organization does with its core values. For instance, if you have a big decision coming up and you’re unsure of what to do, go back to your values to see where it fits in.
If you’re unclear on what your values are, have no fear: I’m going to walk you through it. I’ve done the following exercise in numerous ways over the years and come back to it often, as it’s important to define, redefine, and re-evaluate your values over time. Whether you’re doing some growing and changing or tackling your values for the first time, these five steps help you define them:
Quickly write down five values that are important to you. Jot down the first things that come to mind. Don’t stress too much about it, this is not your final answer.
Ask three friends and/or co-workers to describe you with three adjectives. Sometimes asking open-endedly on FB can be good for this. Most people are not afraid to share their opinions.
Think of three role models you admire and write down three of their positive values. You should have nine values total, although there may be some overlap here. If possible, find different ways to describe similar values, as some words may resonate with you more than others.
Think of parents, teachers or other mentors. Choose at least two you admire, and repeat Step 3. You should have at least six values, but if you have more, great! Kudos to you for being surrounded by awesome people.
Take a look at all of the values you have written down (individual, role models, and mentors) and think about what you want your values as a leader to be. Write down the five values you think are most important. Remember, these can be aspirational – they don’t have to be things you already embody perfectly. They should be symbols of what defines you and how you wish to lead your life. Don’t stress, just choose what feels right for right now. We all grow and change, and your values can grow and change along with you.
Now it’s time to share! Sharing your values builds trust and connection, so I post my values (along with my personal mission statement) on LinkedIn. That way, both my employers and employees know what I stand for: Open-Mindedness, Kindness, Positivity, Light-Heartedness, and Confidence. This helps me land new job opportunities with companies I align with and avoid those I don’t, and it allows my employees to call me out if I’m not living up to them. If that happens, it’s a good reason for me to take a look at my actions and adjust them, or to update my values if necessary.