Do you know what your leadership values are and perhaps even more important – do you live them and what do you do if your core values are shaken at the core? A senior nursing leader that I know well is experiencing a heart-wrenching decision about whether to leave her organization because an important decision that she made had been overruled by her CEO. It had happened before to her in other contexts but in this case, it appears that it could be a deal breaker for her. This is because what she has been asked to do is in direct conflict with her core values.
Clarifying Leadership Values
In their book, The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner identify clarifying one’s values as one of the five best practices in leadership. By identifying those principles that matter most, you will gain tremendous clarity and focus that will allow you to make consistent decisions and take committed action. From their research, the authors report that leaders who have clear leadership philosophies and values are rated 40% higher on their leadership skills than those who don’t have clear values. Finding your voice as a leader better allows you to make choose a direction, act with determination and make the tough choices that come with leadership roles. Values should constitute your personal “bottom line” and tell you when to say no and when to say yes. The clearer that you are about your values, the easier it will be to stay on your chosen path and commit to it.
Some examples of Leadership Core Values
- A commitment to collaboration
- A belief in the need for teamwork
- A commitment to diversity
- A belief in the need to foster innovation
- A willingness to tolerate differences in opinions
- A commitment to customer service
- A belief in the need to develop staff at all levels of the organization
- A commitment to a caring-based approach to leadership
- A willingness to be vulnerable
Living Your Core Values
Being clear in expressing your values as a leader is important but staff will watch your behavior to see if you really live it. In the case situation involving my friend, she has been asked to implement a leadership strategy that is clearly not in concert with her values. Her leadership knows it and she knows it. When this happens, staff lose confidence in your leadership because the “talk” and the “walk” are incongruent. Staff look to their leaders to clarify their values and want to share these values. Shared values are very affirming on a team and can lead to exceptional outcomes. Having a strong sense of your core values can also help you make decisions about whether a workplace culture is the right one for you. All of us have had the experience of being on a team or walking into an environment where we have felt that we just didn’t belong.
Kouzes and Posner recommend that the first step on any leadership journey should be to clarify your values and beliefs that will guide your actions and decisions on path to success and significance. In leadership roles, building shared values is also critical. In times of crisis, nothing can help align an individual more regarding what decisions to make than a re-evaluation of one’s core values.