In the last post of leadership, we looked at the secret of success. The title may have sounded pretentious, but there is a deeper truth in fructifying our goals. We looked at four elements of action – Desire, Intention, Action and Results. Desire is the thing that moves our heart. We may think of ourselves as rational beings making rational choices, but this is far from the truth. Nearly all of us are deeply emotive beings, who use reason to justify certain actions. We cannot possibly tell anyone why we love sport or walking in nature or enjoying Beethoven’s Piano No. 14 “Moonlight”. Yes, we can give reasons and describe how these things make us feel, but we cannot put a finger on why it moves us so much.
These emotive forces – also called as values – are our innermost building blocks. Values are who we are, at least in the realm of our core character. There are many values and many more websites that help you understand and discover your values (Example: https://bit.ly/3lre5FL). These could be things like honestly, integrity, freedom, justice, compassion, kindness, knowledge, travel, helping others, motivation, discovery, and the list is endless. Essentially, values are those things that moves our heart and creates ‘feelings’ in us. Our values are often inherited through parenting, cultural influences and our own experiences in life. And this forms a unique thumbprint – a sort of DNA that is unique to us. When our actions are aligned with our values – we feel at ease, energetic and creative. When our actions are not aligned with our values, we feel a sense of dis-ease and disquiet. We feel bored or we feel like breaking away from that place. Therefore, getting acquainted with our values is imperative to success. Websites and other lists may serve as a guide to discovering your values, but the best and most direct way is to see what resonates with your own mind, your own heart. For this, one needs to be introspective enough and look at the impact the world has on us in every situation – that family meet, that presentation, that team activity and so on.
Again, what has this got to do with Leadership? Great leaders know their values, accept them and then align their actions and decisions to their values. Why is this important? Several times leaders are under tremendous duress. They need to make decisions that can have long-term impacts on the organization. At these crucial junctures, many of us would try to take the easy way out; decisions that would protect our image and ensure that the boat is not rocked too far from the centre. However, great leaders always check if the decision fits into their value system – to their core beliefs – to who they are. If it does, then no matter what the consequence they go with it. The decision may indeed prove to be wrong, but they feel vindicated within themselves and this makes all the difference. A good example of this would be to sell a part of a company to an investor who is known to be unrealistic in their demands. While the money may be good in the short term and it may bring in much needed liquidity, this decision could have major impact on the culture of the workplace. If a leader values having an open and a culture built on good camaraderie, then he would surely eschew the potential investor, even if it creates short-term stress on the company. Such decisions are never easy. However, when decisions are taken on sound values, one can be sure that you never have regrets, you never look back. It came out of who you are and not who you needed to be.
Great leaders, align their actions to their values and clearly communicate this. Communicating these values are crucial for any organization. Most companies have their vision, mission and value statement printed and stuck on the wall. This is never enough. It must translate into the organization’s culture. People must walk, talk and breathe this. And great leaders, as we saw in the earlier post, have the ability to inspire people by great communication. When leaders live these values, it spreads like wildfire. And this transforms organizations into places that people come to explode their potential and not to be another cog in the wheel.
Therefore, we all need to start looking at our values. Be honest and open with ourselves. Once identified, we need to set this into action by making concrete goals and ensuring our action is aligned with our values. What can keep us from acting in line with our values, is social pressure and the easy way out. We can easily succumb to the peer group. We can easily get lazy. In order to be able to stick to one’s values, we must reinforce this regularly. Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? Such questions must burn our minds so deeply, that it becomes a living, breathing, beating part of ourselves. It is only when the unnecessary has dropped off from our lives, can we be true to our values. And that is what makes a true leader.