Leadership is something everyone talks about in business but few of us understand.
Truly effective leadership grows out of personal values — the deeply-held personal beliefs that determine one’s priorities in life — that nurture people’s passion and commitment. This alignment of leaders and employees values adds value to the enterprise for customers, investors, employees and society.
For more than 30 years, I have worked with companies to help them understand that it’s not what leaders do that’s important, it’s why they do it. The process of leadership is to turn your values into a compelling cause for others. I’ve seen this process change the lives of managers from executive to entry level, from Manhattan to Mumbai.
Effective leaders are those rare human beings who have an emotional commitment to their values and can inspire others to commit to these values too. Leaders develop in organizations that consistently allow managers to live their values at work without the company constantly facilitating the process.
However, before you can live out your values, you need to figure out what they really are and which are most important. Here’s how to get started:
1. Understand your values
It’s tough to live a life of consciously-chosen values because there is relentless, seductive pressure to alter your beliefs.
Anybody who has a role for you — as consumer, constituent or manager — stands to profit from you not having a sure sense of self. After all, when you’re not on your own agenda, you’re prey to the agenda of others. It takes just a little more work to list your personal values, why they are important to you, and which ones really matter the most but it’s important to do so.
2. Get support from your people
If your employees know what your values are and care about them, then you can live them. If they don’t, you won’t. Translate your values — the meaning of family, integrity, adventure, creativity, spirituality, and health or whatever your values are — into the promise of better working conditions for your employees. If they want those conditions, they’ll protect your values to help make them happen.
3. Take responsibility
Leadership doesn’t come with a job title — and you can’t order it on the Internet and can’t just wait for it to happen to you. Leadership happens when you understand your values and understand how to enroll others in supporting them. It’s your responsibility to assume an active role in forming your values and then evangelize them to your employees.
The irreducible essence of leadership is living your deepest personal values every day at work and at home without compromise. Leaders use those values to make life better for their employees. This is why people become leaders and why people follow them.
Stan Slap shows companies how to emotionally engage their managers in order to ensure success. Over the past thirty years, he has worked with and taught at Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, HSBC, Viacom, Time Warner and eBAY. He is also the author of the recently released bestseller Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers.