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Great Leadership Begins with Solid Values. What are Yours?

Last week, I wrote about the six basic human needs and how they impact your leadership style. This week, it’s all about values.

As you’ll recall, the six basic human needs are certainty, variety, significance, love and connection, growth and contribution. When you find a healthy and effective way to meet a need, it can become a value that you make a priority in your life. Values and needs and needs and values are inextricably linked.

For example, if you learn to meet your need for certainty by putting away 10% of your income each month, Financial Responsibility may become a value. Or, if you meet your need for variety by writing short stories, or painting, or decorating cakes, and you find it particularly fulfilling, Living a Creative Life may become a value you prioritize in your life. If you meet your needs for significance, connection and contribution by sponsoring a refugee family, Service may become a value.

When a need is met, you live from the value it creates, rather than being driven by it.

Imagine how freeing that is. You’re living it. You’re not being driven by anything. It’s a part of you and it radiates out of you. This is critical, because when a need is not met, and you’re driven by it, you may be tempted to fulfill it in some of the negative ways I wrote about last week.

When we fulfill our needs in negative ways, we’re essentially running away from our values. We’re betraying ourselves, and it takes a terrible toll on us spiritually, emotionally and even physically.

When we live by our values, we feel less stress and more joy. We are more confident because of the certainty gained from knowing we’re living our life as we were meant to. We’re motivated to grow as a person and contribute to others.

We become expansive.

When we’re not living our values, we contract. There’s less of us. And the world needs more of us.

The truth is, you cannot become a great leader until you know who you are. And a big piece of knowing who you are is understanding the values that drive your beliefs and behaviours. Being grounded in your values gives you fortitude when making tough decisions, it makes you more creative and above all, it gives you the courage to act with integrity.

Okay. So you might be feeling a little uncomfortable right now. What the hell are values? What are your values? This could very well be something you’ve never stopped and considered before. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s do this.

The Three Types of Values

Should Values. These are the superficial things we think we should believe and do. We learn them from a young age from our parents and teachers. They can be banal things such as “be polite” and “respect your elders”. Sometimes though, they can be unhelpful, such as “don’t speak out” or “don’t rock the boat”. I’m not a big fan of Should Values. I think they’re connected to our base fears – that we’re not enough as we are, and therefore we aren’t worthy of love.

Should Values are external. They’re imposed upon us. They’re not a part of us the way our chosen and core values are. Take the time to observe your inner dialogue. Do you recognize any Should Values at play? And if you find some, be certain that they are serving you rather than the other way around.

Could (or Chosen) Values. These are the personal values we select for ourselves and they resonate with us on a deep level. There’s an endless list of these values, but they tend to fall into three categories: Experiencing, Creating and Being.

The Experiencing Values are related to how we act and what we experience in the world. Examples are Freedom, Exploration, Nurturing, Financial Responsibility.

The Creating Values are about what we bring into existence (I love that phrase). Examples are Designing, Playing, Expressing, Innovating and, of course, Creating.

The Being Values are about our attitudes, mindsets and quality of character. These values are a very big deal. They encompass things such as Integrity, Love, Peace and Openness.

Core Values. From our Could Values, there’s usually a list of three to five that are most important to you. These are your Core Values.

My Core Values are: Creativity, Independence, Integrity, Connection and Knowledge. These values are the base from which I operate in the world. They are my grounding.

When we’re not living our Core Values consistently, we can feel dissatisfied, depressed, embarrassed and even ashamed. This is because we’re denying our true nature.

What Do You Value?

How do you identify your values? Well, there are clues.

They’re in the things you like to do. They’re in the times when we’re at our best. They’re in what we were like as kids. They’re in what has made us successful in the past. And they’re in what we’d like more of in our lives. Externally, our friends and family have a good idea of what our values are, as we display them on a daily basis.

The key is to look for the commonalities. Because that’s where our true values lie.

You’ll know you’ve hit on your Core Values when you feel a sense of relief. And when you do, you’ll know what’s important to you. You’ll have a roadmap for living your life.

Unstuck Project interviewee Lucas, a professional, used his Core Values to implement a system that allows him to stay in alignment with his true self at work.

“It starts with what I call my overarching goals. My wife makes fun of them. They’re the things that are important to me from a generalist point of view. What are your dreams, and what are you optimizing for?”

Lucas’s values are: Be happy, Be known, Be financially free, Be fit and strong, and Be loved. “So, if something isn’t optimizing one of my drivers, I won’t do it.”

Similarly, interviewee Isaac, an executive, has what he calls his “Five Pillars” – Family first, Impact on his country, always be learning, work with great people, trust your gut.

Once you land on your vales, write them down, and put them in a place where you will see them every day. You may even want to make them the lock screen on your phone or the wallpaper on your computer.

Next week, we’ll talk about how values conflicts may be holding you back.

P.S. Sign-up for my weekly newsletter (green box at top right of your screen on desktop, or under this post on mobile) so you never miss a post. I promise I’m not a spammy nightmare. Once per week, and that’s it.

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