As a leader, what you say and do are key to how willingly your people will be led by you. Your people want trust you, to believe that you understand them and have their best interests at heart. They want you to be consistent and to be a good role model.
I’ve had many leaders myself throughout my career, some really good and a few really bad. I know what I value in a leader, and I know how I want to lead people – but I didn’t know how to articulate these things until I started to explore leadership behaviour and capability through the lens of values and behaviours. Then I learned some really interesting things! What’s the No1 thing people want in a leader? Throughout my career as a leader and coaching leaders, the most common thing people told me they want – and respect – most in their own leader is authenticity. They want to know their leader as a person, to develop an open and honest relationship with them, and to know they can trust them to act consistently and with integrity. What does being an authentic leader mean? Being authentic is about being 'real', your true self, living and acting in line with your values and beliefs in every situation. Being authentic enables our people to know us, and this builds trust with our people. Being authentic requires us to be aware of our values. How does knowing our values help us to be an authentic leader? When we're 100% clear on our values it becomes easier to lead our people, and ourselves: 💛 We're able to be our authentic selves 💛 We make decisions and act with confidence because we have a compass to guide us 💛 Our people and colleagues know they can rely on us to be consistent 💛 We are our whole and best selves 💛 When we're planning our leadership career development we can find an organisation and role with values that align with our own How do I find out what my values are? Your values are those things that drive your behaviour. They are most often driven by experiences and things we learned in our childhood, or by significant life events as adults. When you understand your values you can describe them and how they show up for you and your people. You can also use them to guide your behaviours and decisions. If you're not sure you are 100% clear on your values ask yourself these questions: ? Which 'lessons' from your childhood have stayed with you? ? When you've acted in a way that feels right, why did you feel that? ? When you've acted in a way that feels wrong, what made you feel that way? ? What matters to you? ? What do you stand for, and against? ? What do your close friends and family believe are your values? Why? ? What do your team and colleagues believe are your values? Why? ? How much have you 'absorbed' the values of your organisation and which truly align with your own? Often our values are closely aligned with our strengths, especially those that are ‘intrinsic’. Thinking about what you are great at and what energises you may help you to articulate your values. How do I align my values with my behaviours? Now you’ve identified your values: Think about when you’ve acted in line with them in the past. What did you do and why? Imagine a future scenario where you have to make a difficult decision. How will your values guide you? What specifically will you do? Next, capture three ‘I will’ and ‘I won’t’ statements for each of your values; for example: Integrity
I will: ü Always be guided my values ü Be honest with my people and colleagues ü Do what I promise to do
I won’t: × Let fear detract me from what’s right × Let others take the blame for my actions × Act for selfish reasons
This activity will help you to really drill down into what your values mean to you, how they will guide your behaviour and how they will show up for your people and colleagues.
Then ask yourself if your people and colleagues, and your family and friends, will recognise this about you. If you’re feeling courageous, you can ask them what they think you value – does it match your own views? Do they recognise your ‘I will’ and ‘I won’t’ statements?
Read about how to develop your leadership career
If you’d like help to understand and articulate your values, how they can help you become the best leader you can be and how you can use your understanding to achieve your leadership career goals, get in touch for a confidential conversation.
Karen Felton is a Leadership Career Change Success coach, enable leaders in HR and Financial Services to make the change they dream of in their career.
She has over 25 years' experience leading teams, coaching and mentoring people, developing leaders and enabling people to achieve their career goals. She is passionate about enabling people to be their best selves so they can perform at their best in work and in life.