Recall from Parts I & II, our intent is to develop the foundation of being a great leader, inspiring others and getting great results with customers: Modeling the Way. In order for you to Model the Way, I said you need to Know Yourself First through identifying your values and getting feedback from others.
Knowledge is only knowledge unless you apply it! Below is a start to putting your knowledge to work.
Lead with your values. I know that sounds weighty and vague, but we’ll make it simple. Keep your values in front of you at all times when you make decisions, write plans, develop your people, offer opinions in meetings and relay company messages, all through YOUR lens. Without them, you risk doing these activities to appeal to someone higher up, to look good, to avoid conflict with a difficult person, make more money or any of those other insidious political reasons.
Seek alignment. The hardest part of leading with your values is when they conflict with things you’re being asked to do, or worse, the culture of a place. You may not even be aware it’s happening, or you deny it. Don’t do that anymore. People don’t want you to! Remember, the workplace craves authentic leaders! Here’s an opportunity to identify the values in conflict, and work to find a common purpose. Most times you can find common purpose in the “what” and just don’t agree on the “how.”
Align your actions with your values. Or, put another way, Model the Way. If you believe in accountability, then be more than public about owning your mistakes and meeting deadlines — use them as teaching opportunities. If you value learning and challenge, then make sure you regularly discuss learning opportunities with your direct reports. If you value integrity, then stand up for things that aren’t right….particularly if there is great risk for you in doing that.
These are not easy things. My journey has taken years and is ongoing. But I will say, it took JUST ONE TIME to stand up to something that wasn’t in line with my values, and from that moment on I never turned back. I remember it like it was yesterday. I stood up to a beast of a problem that was so lacking in integrity and accountability, but the environment being what it was, nobody said a word. Guess what? People totally agreed, even the head of the organization, and we executed a more transparent process as a result. Guess what else? Many other times I’ve led with my values, I was as alone as could be. But I know others are watching, and I know I’m being true to myself.
Such is life in leadership and being credible. You have to decide what really matters and try stick with it, no matter what. That’s what inspires.