Why Value-Based Leadership Is Important
The title of leader carries a major responsibility; it is not just a title.
We have all heard the adage, leaders are born; not made. I believe some are born while others are taught. Leadership, a critical management skill, is the ability to motivate a group of people toward a common goal. How you motivate others to get to that goal is influenced by the values you bring to the position. Your values reflect a collection of experiences over your lifetime beginning with your childhood.
Whatever you do in life, you must be able to live with yourself. My moral compass was established growing up on the farm. At that time, I did not appreciate the values my parents tried to instill in me. We did not have much in the way of material things but we had things that money could not buy, such as love, support and a faith in God. That training coupled with strong families who supported each other helped me develop a moral system that would direct my life.
Knowing yourself is crucial as you are faced with ethical choices; as you communicate with others who have different ideas or even as you make day-to-day decisions. How will you know what to do? If you have clearly defined your values and made a commitment to live by them your decision will be easy. If you are clear about your own values, priorities and preferences and not let society or someone else define them for you, you can better articulate what you stand for and can make better choices. Never compromise yourself or your values but maintain the highest standards of excellence and integrity. We all face temptations but it is how you deal with those temptations that define you as a person. I recall the time when I was running my business and had the opportunity to secure a large contract I desperately wanted. I discovered, however, that in order to get the contract I had to give the contracting officer a kickback. I turned down the opportunity and felt good about my decision. So cultivate a moral compass that protects not only your reputation, but most importantly protects your soul.
Honesty and Integrity:
In today's environment, these two characteristics are in the forefront on both the political and corporate scene. With all of the indiscretions among our leaders of today, everyone is hungry for leaders who are honest and have immeasurable integrity. People want their leaders to be someone they can trust and they want to be able to depend on what the leaders say. In other words, watch the person's actions as opposed to the words. Leaders should "walk the walk." Their own behaviors should set examples for others. Among their followers, there should be no question about the values of the leader.
A good leader encourages others to take action, sharing with them the vision that gives them the desire to follow. An inspirational leader remains positive even in the face of insurmountable circumstances and continues to motivate the team. This type leader involves the team in changes and provides the support needed for them to carry out their responsibility. With this quality a leader is more interested in results than process, allowing members the flexibility to plan and implement their strategy. In my own business, I encouraged managers to be creative with ideas and be willing to suggest new ways of doing things. I maintained my role as leader by not abdicating my responsibility. One example was a specially designed training program that required not only an investment from the company but required employees to invest some of their free time to prepare for advancement. This program made it possible to increase the number of internal promotions. I am sure this program was better received since it originated among employees.
Everyone wants to feel appreciated. Great leaders use gratitude to motivate their team and to create a positive workplace. Learn to complement even the smallest thing. If employees can experience small successes, it can lead to even greater successes. "Thank you" is a powerful word. Say thank you often and with sincerity even when employees have done no more than expected. Also be specific about why you are thankful. If the employee's action has contributed to some success for the team or your customers, let the employee know it.
As you examine your life and review the values you were taught, have you carried them forward into your business life? If not, What better time than now?
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Lillian Lambert is first African American woman to receive an MBA from Harvard Business School and a successful entrepreneur. In her book, The Road to Someplace Better: From the Segregated South to Harvard Business School and Beyond, Lambert draws upon her experiences, using her personal story to show how to use obstacles and barriers as stepping stones to higher levels of achievement. Visit Lillian on Red Room, where you can buy her book and read her blog.