Knowing your leadership values is a vital part of being an effective leader. When you’re in touch with your values – and live them every day – you can be more transparent, make better decisions, build stronger relationships and trust in your school, and inspire others.
In this episode you’ll discover what leadership values are and the benefits of leading with them. I’ll also share strategies to discover your own values and how to incorporate them into your daily leadership.
Additionally, we’ll discuss how to create a value-based culture within your team and school.
Let’s unlock the power of values in leadership together. And remember to check out the free resource on discovering and living from your values – you can access it below or by visiting sarahhowling.com/resources.
Keep on Positively Leading.
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The Power of Values: Leading with Authenticity and Purpose
Do you know what your core values are, or even know what ‘values’ are? Many of us are aware of the values that our school or organisation hold, but what about your own, personal set of values? How much time have you spent reflecting and considering what is important to you? Exploring values and being super clear on what they are is crucial when it comes to our thoughts and actions. Studies show that leaders who are connected to their values every day experience a deeper sense of commitment, effectiveness, and wholeheartedness in their work.
What are values?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, values are ‘principles or standards of behaviour, one’s judgement of what is important in life’. And, another great definition by Richard Barratt is that values are the energetic drivers of our aspirations and our intentions. Quite simply, values are part of who we are. They are what we hold most important to us. Understanding them and living and working through them, as if they are our north star guiding us, enables us to become the best version of ourselves and to lead with authenticity.
The power of values in leadership
Research from leadership experts Kouzes and Posner demonstrated that leaders who know their values and are connected to them feel more connected to themselves and more committed to their work; this helps them to be more effective as leaders and more productive in their actual work. Brené Brown found similar outcomes, especially in those that demonstrate the willingness to be vulnerable and courageous.
My three overarching values are kindness, excellence, and learning. Considering these core values when faced with challenging situations, and particularly when faced with some really challenging conversations, helps me centre myself, guide my thinking, and explore the best way forward. Ultimately, leaders who are connected to their values every day experience a deeper sense of commitment, effectiveness, and wholeheartedness in their work. By understanding our values, we can navigate challenging situations and maintain our resiliency and authenticity as leaders.
Our values also provide insights into our motivations and emotional responses. When you find yourself getting angry, frustrated or having another strong response to something in the news, on social media, a directive from a senior leader, or anything in fact, it might be that one of your values is being challenged or tested and you hadn’t even realised. Next time you feel a strong emotion, stop, take a moment and think about what is causing that inner conflict – are your core values being challenged?
Knowing your values and leading from a values-based approach allows you to make better choices based on doing the right thing. Your decisions will be clear, transparent, and understood because they are rooted in your values and those of your organisation. This helps you to build stronger, more trusting relationships – you are being seen to live your values. You will also be leading more authentically as knowing your values, and leading from them, will help you be more aligned with your purpose. Values also help us feel more resilient when navigating times of challenge and change, and more inspired during times of opportunity and growth; you have your own North Star to guide you.
Identifying and living your values
You might be reading this and trying to work out what your values are. Quite often, when we first give values some thought, we might reel off 10 to 15 words that resonate with us and what matters to us most, but ideally, narrowing these down to between two (as Brené Brown recommends) or five will help you to have clear and focused values and also avoid times where you might have values conflicting against each other.
One way to refine your values is through the Peak Experience activity and considering some key questions:
- Think of a time when you were at your best, when you felt alive, when things were going really well. What was the experience? Why was it such a peak experience? How did you feel about it?
- Write. Write for 7 minutes. Don’t overthink it, self-correct, or go back over and re-read what you’ve read, just completely free-write.
- Read through your writing and highlight all the words that stand out to you.
- Look for themes – are there shared qualities, or common elements?
- Consider your responses to these questions: What motivates you? What do you really enjoy doing? What gives you a sense of fulfilment? What gets you really annoyed or agitated?
- Next, think about the qualities other people have noticed about you. Write them down, look for key themes and highlight them too.
By doing this you should have a list of about 10 to 15 words. Explore these, try to categorise them, make links between them and see if you can refine them to just two to five.
Once you have your core values it’s important to explore how to actually live and lead from them – you need to bring them to life. Identifying them is only the first step. Ask yourself and note down what your behaviour might look like for these questions:
- What does it mean to live and lead from these values?
- What would I be doing, saying, or thinking?
- What would it be like if I was not living these values?
Once you’ve done this work and you start your values-based leadership journey, keep reflecting. Reflect at the end of every day, considering the following questions:
- Where was I misaligned with my values?
- Where did I act from my values?
- Where did I not act from my values?
- What felt good?
- What didn’t feel good?
- Finally, ask the question – how much am I living my values?
With this awareness, you can then make some changes, take action, and live even more according to your values.
Once you know your own values, consider whether these align with your school, organisation or team. An individual may end up working in an organisation that has very different values to our own which can then create challenges and inner turmoil as the values conflict and we become unsure how to act or behave. This can also have negative consequences for mental wellbeing. If you experience times when you’re feeling tested, just ask yourself is there a value of mine that’s being tested or not met?
Exploring the values of your team, encouraging them to work out their own personal values (don’t tell them what to believe or value), and then sharing and reflecting on them together can help to build even better relationships and strengthen your team. You could then explore your team values – what is important to your work together? Having shared, aligned values allows you to have an understanding of how you behave together and a shared language to help guide you to grow and develop together as a team. By doing this, and through an ongoing process of reflection, you will be living and working through values.
Next time you see a value statement on the website or on the wall of your school or organisation, think to yourself, as a community, are we living those values? Or are they just there, laminated, and looking pretty?
Knowing your values as a leader helps you to show up authentically, consistently, and influentially. Want to get clear on your values as a leader? Whether you’ve already got a pretty good idea or you’ve never really thought about it before, download the workbook to discover your values and lead from them.
- Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
- The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
- From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership by Harry M. Kraemer Jr
- The Values Driven Organisation by Richard Barrett