Are You Using What You Value in The Way You Lead?


What you value drives your behaviors. You can choose to be conscious of those values and purposeful in your behavior – or not.

When you’re aware of the values that guide your decisions and actions, you are able to lead with clarity, align with your organization’s values, and can be more selfless – acting on values that serve others well. 

My favorite way to assist others in defining their values are to use some type of values cards (like playing cards) – they’re visual and tactile, slowing my clients down – providing a way to think through, sort, and organize what’s important to them. Here are some values cards that are free; when printed on heavy paper, they are easy to use and sort, assisting you in defining what’s important to you. I find it’s best to choose no more than five top values – that seems to be the maximum magic number that most people can remember.

So you now know what your values are. Are you using them?

Once you’ve defined your personal values, you want them to guide your actions with clarity and consistency. Set aside time to consider your actions on a weekly basis. Reflect on whether your top values have driven your past week’s behavior as you want them to. Here are some questions that can guide your reflection:
How have you treated others? What interactions have you had with others? What values were expressed in your actions? Did your behaviors toward others express the values that you are proud of? If not, what were the values behind those interactions? What behaviors do you want to have that will express your values.

How have you made decisions? What decisions have you made recently? What drove those decisions? Were they made with values that you’ve chosen as important to you? If not, why not? How will you stay true to your values with future decisions?

Do you have one set of expectations for yourself and another set for others? What expectations guide you? Are they aligned with your values? What expectations do you apply to others? Do the expectations you have for your own behaviors match those you have for others’ behaviors? How will you align your behavior with your behavior in the future? How will you communicate your expectations to others?

Are organizational values in conflict with your values? What values guide your organization (even if they’re not explicit)? Are these organizational values aligned with your own? What are the differences? Are these differences worthy of concern?

Consciously defining your values is a way for you to anchor your behaviors and decisions. Reflecting regularly on how they drive your behavior will help you to make adjustments. If it’s been some time since you’ve defined your values, it’s time to get back in touch with them. Use the card sort to figure out the most important values that will guide your decisions and actions. Keep your values visible (print them, frame them, and put them on your desk as a reminder). Reflect on them. Most importantly, use them to guide your decisions and actions consistently as you lead.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

4 comments on “Are You Using What You Value in The Way You Lead?

  1. Thank you for the great reminder to lead from values and the gift of the cards. I have used such an exercise with my leadership team and find it to be valuable to identify how we prioritize our core values. We start with 20 cards and get them down to the top 10, top 5, top 3 and our number 1. It was a good lesson in finding what drives us.

  2. Hi Mary Jo

    Really great post on Values, which I fundamentally support! Without them we are nothing – not in our personal or our professional lives! Mine have guided me throughout my career and occasionally caused some hardship when they became dis-synchronous within organisations that underwent major change in leadership! That’s the time to stand up and be counted and/or move on!

    I also really appreciate the sharing of the cards!

    Kind regards


  3. Richard, I’m glad to see that you are using values as a team exercise. I have also led teams in this exercise and find it an interesting way to further conversations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

  4. John, you make a point that sometimes we discover through this exercise that we’re out of sync with the organization we’re in. The trick is to be fully conscious of our values and find the places where we can use them every day.

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