Why Values and a Purpose are Vital for Leaders Today

purpose

Matthew Snider is a writer, a personal development junkie and a regular blogger at Self Development Secrets, a blog to help you achieve your goals. For more tips like these, I encourage you to visit his site.

Have you worked under someone who was so assured and stood their ground that no matter what happened, he or she knew what mattered? Then you’ve probably worked with a leader who has strong, unshakeable values. It’s not about the money, recognition or power. These values that drive them are something bigger. Finding your purpose is one thing. Finding it as a leader is an entirely different subject. It’s not about emulating other successful leaders or key figures in the industry; it’s about identifying your real values in life, knowing that this gives you a definite purpose for making the tough decisions as a leader. Let’s go about finding out how these things can be so vital to being a better leader.

 

The Making Of A Better Leader

Making decisions is what leaders do. They get paid to make the tough calls. But what’s more important are the values of a leader. It gives the team consistency and stability. What I mean by that is this: having a set of values will give a team a direction, a company culture, and adds some meaning to the work that is being done. All these start from the top, the leader, and flows down to every level. Now every leader has their values, and they can differ from one to another. Two good leaders can have completely different values. So what exactly is a value and how does it help one become a better leader?

 

“Great people have great values and great ethics.” -Jeffrey Gitomer

 

What Are Values?

Values are what is important to us—in other words, what we value, or the thing that drives us. People will have certain core values which help shape them into who they are today. The same values can also be different for everyone. For example, if two people value love, they can show it in very different ways through their actions or vocally. It’s sad to think that even though we all have values, when it comes to working, we tend to adopt the values we were taught to follow. Unfortunately, these values can hurt us, and it’s not something we would like to associate with our real values.

 

The Purpose Of A Leader

Harvard Business Review states that based on the author’s understanding, less than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of individual purpose. These same leaders can tell us the mission statement of the company, but they lack the sole purpose that makes them stand out as a leader. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company or told to lead a small team of three, your purpose is what makes you, you. It’s your why: why you’re working, why you want to lead the team and more. That’s the difference between leaders, and a good leader has an ultimate purpose. This is why some leaders get remembered and acknowledged long after they’re gone.

 

How to Find Your Purpose?

Compete and Keep Your Soul

values based leadership
This is a guest post by Jeff Thompson, MD. Jeff is the author ofLead True: Live Your Values, Build Your People, Inspire Your Community and he is CEO Emeritus and Executive Advisor at Gundersen Health System.

 

Compete and Keep Your Soul

The bookstores have volumes and the media is full of examples of people who believe the way to success is to crush the competition—out-strategizing people and pressing your advantage till they are crushed by the wayside. Young leaders are told to step on faces to get ahead or aim for short term goals of size and profit.

But there is another way. There is a clear path to have stunning success and still be able to sleep at night and be proud to tell your grandchildren how the world is a better place because you were in it.

Values-based, not ego-based, leadership focuses on serving the greater good and accomplishing a higher purpose.  It is not complicated. It is just difficult.

 

“Values-based, not ego-based, leadership focuses on serving the greater good and accomplishing a higher purpose.” -Jeff Thompson

 

Let’s take for example the last broad economic downturn.

How are the priorities in your department or company organized to deal with this problem? Who were the first to be affected? The most vulnerable? The last people who were brought in the organization (your future)? The people with the least power and the least influence? Who took the biggest beating? What won the day? The long-term good of the organization or the short-term financial performance report for the board? Shareholders may clamor for short-term wins, but there is no law that says you have to sacrifice the long-term health of the organization or its people to satisfying this immediate clamor. Decision making guided by values takes courage, discipline and durability.

 

“Decision making guided by values takes courage, discipline and durability.” -Jeff Thompson

How to Find Your Voice as a Leader

Learn to be an Influential Leader

Do you want to increase your influence?

Do you want to find your voice?

Do you want to be a more powerful leader?

Of course you do.

 

“Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.” –Stephen Covey

 

Learning to be an effective, influential leader is a lifelong goal for most of us. That’s why I read all I can from as many different sources as possible.

Coach, consultant, and speaker Paul Larsen believes that anyone can become a more powerful leader. His new book, Find Your Voice as a Leader, offers a model to help everyone become a better leader. Paul’s many corporate roles, including Chief Human Resources Officer for a $3 billion organization, makes him an ideal teacher. I recently asked him to share his experience and the research in his new book.

 

“Speak with intent so that you can lead with vision.” –Paul Larsen

  

Find Your Voice as a Leader

What does it mean to “find your voice”?

As an executive coach, I partner with leaders across all industries and within all types of organizations.  I have found that a resulting impact of the politics and the normative structures of organizations is that the creative talents, or voices, of leaders are stifled into an expected pattern of behavior.  Leaders learn quickly that to succeed is to “go with the flow” and not make waves.  Their unique voice can be easily silenced.

Thus, many leaders get lost in the noise of today’s chaotic business environment. They remain quiet instead of speaking up, even when they have an opinion. They follow someone else’s decision instead of doing what they really want to do. They let the chatter in their head get the best of them, and they end up second guessing every action or step they take. Or they remain with the status quo instead of taking any action at all. They hide behind others instead of making their own decisions.

To “find your voice as a leader” is to create a compelling and unique leadership brand by:

– Discovering your critical leadership VALUES;

– Creating a compelling vision to get the OUTCOMES you desire;

– Building relationships with INFLUENCE and credibility;

– Making decisions that reveal your COURAGE to take a stand;

– Communicating your overall EXPRESSION to create a lasting legacy.

 

Study: 70 to 80% of people can be trained to be effective leaders.

 

Define Your Core Beliefs and Values

How do you define leadership values?

Your values are your core beliefs and ideals that guide your decisions, your worldview, your insights, your actions, and your communications. Your values are the principles you believe are important in the way you live and work. They determine your priorities, and, deep down, they are the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to. When your actions and beliefs match your values, life is usually good— you’re satisfied and content. This is the primary reason identifying your values is so important. Values exist, whether you recognize them or not. Yet, your leadership impact will be much more confident and stronger when you know and acknowledge your values and when you make plans and decisions that honor them.

 

What happens when our values are in conflict?  

When your actions and beliefs match your values, life is usually good— you’re satisfied and content. However, when the environment and the accompanying actions and beliefs don’t align with your values, life feels out of sorts, and it can be a real source of discontent and unhappiness. This misalignment of our values is one of the core sources of dis-engagement at work and occurs on a very regular basis. We make compromises on a daily basis, and within our corporate environment, we make compromises as they pertain to values when matched against the values of the organization. But when these compromises are made on a consistent basis and/or the compromises create a very large “values gap” between the individual and the organization, this can result in a feeling of dis-engagement and lack of commitment. And it will not be solved until the individual decides to take deliberate action on this compromise and ask, “Is this the type of environment that will provide me the ability to do my best work or do I need to plan for a change?”

 

“Leadership is influence.” –John C. Maxwell

 

How does identifying your values set you apart from other leaders? 

We are all governed by a set of values that act as our “inner GPS.”  Our values govern our decisions, our judgments, our communication and our overall worldview.  They shape who we are.  Leaders who identify their core set of values and lead out front with their values are more confident, more courageous and more influential versus leaders who do not. Values are more than just a “set of words on a laminated card,” they are the core DNA of every leader and are the ingredients of the legacy each leader leaves behind.

 

Don’t Get Marooned on Intention Island

Leadership Lessons From the Unusual Story of Market Basket

An Uplifting Corporate Story

We often read stories about corporate greed, about slimy executives, about profits at the expense of people. These stories grab headlines because they hit a nerve and fuel anger. I have never read a story quite like We Are Market Basket: The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement That Saved a Beloved Business where employees and customers joined together to demand the return of a fired CEO.

The story may be unique, but it offers powerful lessons and insight into the changing nature of how we view corporations and what we expect as employees.

I recently spoke with the authors, Daniel Korschun and Grant Welker, about this story.

 

Loyalty is Demonstrated Every Day

This story has so many powerful lessons. One of those is about loyalty. What does the We Are Market Basket teach us about loyalty?

Arthur T. and much of the senior management team have been extraordinarily successful at engendering loyalty. But loyalty at this company tends to be viewed as a two-way street. Employees – they call themselves associates – we speak with tell us that they feel loyal to the company and top management because they feel a loyalty to them from that top management. So what we see at Market Basket is people who are reaffirming their commitment to each other over time. The result is these very strong bonds we see. The lesson for managers is that you can’t expect loyalty without making a sacrifice yourself. You’re not going to gain loyalty just by changing the pay or the job responsibilities; it’s something that has to be demonstrated every day.

 

“You can’t expect loyalty without making a sacrifice yourself.”

 

A Respect for Others

Why did Arthur T. inspire such passion and loyalty?

Arthur T. is beloved as the CEO largely because he gives all associates, customers, and vendors respect. He says explicitly that no one person is special at the company, and from what we’ve seen he walks the walk.

But it’s also important to point out his place in the protest. Bringing back Arthur T. was the central demand of protesters, but in our view, they were fighting to save the company’s culture. Reinstating Arthur T. became the critical step in making sure that this New England institution continued to serve those who have known it for years, and sometimes for generations.

Market Basket 

A Lesson for Boards and Corporate Leaders

What does the Market Basket experience teach boards of directors?

Most business schools today teach that the fiduciary responsibility of directors is to look after the interests of shareholders. However, this idea is simply not supported by the corporate code in Massachusetts and many other states. The code states explicitly that the board is to be a steward of the corporation, which includes customers, employees, shareholders, and others. We need to hold our boards to this higher standard.

Leadership lesson: A corporation’s duties extend beyond shareholders to the broader community.

 

A Commitment to the Community

New Leaders – Get Good Information and Build Relationships

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

New Leader Challenges

Achieving a new leadership position is both rewarding and challenging. It acknowledges that you are someone who can make a difference, lead others and get things done. On the other hand, it is perhaps another step toward more responsibility and provides greater visibility of your actions and style.

Whether you are new to a department, new to a company or just received a promotion; the challenges are very similar. It is important to establish your style, values and culture effectively and quickly. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. So what are some techniques to quickly establish your leadership style and lead effectively?

Much of my career has been serving in interim executive positions or as interim CEO for various companies, where I often entered the organization as the “new guy” in charge. Here are the fundamental areas that I have found helpful for your initial focus to be an effective leader:

  • First Impressions
  • Information Gathering and Relationship Building
  • Open Communication
  • Decision, Delegation and Empowerment
  • Action and Accountability

In this post, I will discuss techniques for:

Information Gathering and Relationship Building

Open Communication

The techniques in these areas will establish the foundation to develop a culture of decisiveness, empowerment, accountability and action. I will discuss these attributes in a future post.

First Impressions

Whether you are in a new leadership role as executive, department manager, product manager, or team leader, people will watch closely to understand your style. A few of the things people will evaluate include:

  • Are you decisive? How do you make decisions?
  • How do you take action?
  • What do you tolerate?
  • Do you hold people accountable?
  • Can you be influenced? Will you listen?
  • Are you approachable?
  • How do you react to bad news?
  • Do you focus on big picture or detail?
  • Can you be put off, pocket-vetoed?
  • How do you deal with good or poor performance?
  • How do you think about customers; how do you treat them?
  • How do you gather information?
  • What are your values?

As the organization’s employees and customers observe these traits, it is important to remember: They will listen to what you say, but it is what you do that counts the most to establish culture.

 

“What you do, not what you say, is what establishes culture.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

So, where do you start? I suggest you initially focus on the following characteristics as the most important:

  • Gather reliable information
  • Communicate openly
  • Be decisive
  • Delegate and empower others when possible
  • Encourage action
  • Require accountability
  • Satisfy customers

To lay the groundwork for these cultural practices, you must first have good information, form relationships at all levels and communicate openly. The next two sections provide some techniques.

 

Information Gathering and Relationship Building

Before a new leader is able to decide, initiate action or communicate intelligently, he/she needs good information quickly. It is vitally important to have information from different perspectives and different levels in an organization. Just getting information from one person/place can lead to narrow, sub-optimized decisions. Here are some mechanisms to obtain good information and simultaneously form relationships:

  • Skip-Level Meetings: Go to department staff meetings at all levels of the organization, starting with your direct reports, if you are a manager. This also works for project team leaders. You may simply listen during the meeting, but a simple round table discussion also works very well. Popular questions are: what is working; what is not working; what is frustrating; what should we stop doing; what decisions are holding up progress?

 

“It is vitally important for leaders to have information from different perspectives and levels.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

There are several benefits to skip-level meetings. Not only do you get good information from “the front line,” but it is also a good place to find things that people can be empowered to fix, thus setting the tone for delegation, action and decisiveness. Two fundamentals: 1) Always listen and question; 2) Be cautious not to manage around the team leader.

  • “State of the Union” Meetings: These are short one-on-one meetings for a person to give you a summary of the situation for a group, team, department or project. It does not have to be a polished presentation, just a discussion from an outline that covers: priorities, issues, decisions needed and what to start, stop or keep doing. Basically, let the person tell you what they are doing, what is going well and what needs attention. Again, look for opportunities for decision and action.