Leadership about taking people forward to the desired destination. Unfortunately, it's not a straight line from where we are today to where we want to go. Most leaders zigzag back and forth, from crisis to crisis, putting out a fire here and dealing with an issue there. If you followed behind them, you’d wonder why they seem to wander to and fro so much.
Navigating the zigs and zags of leadership takes some work
Leaders have to decide when to zig and when to zag. They have to know how far to veer to the left and how far back they need to go in the other direction. To manage the endless choices one has to make, leaders will find it helpful to have guideposts. An essential tools managers can use to navigate along the path towards their vision is to increase their understanding of their own values.
Your deeply held values serve as guideposts
When leaders know what they value, they know what is important; it helps them with ethical decisions. Clarity of values gives them a sense of what hill they will put a considerable effort into and which battles to walk away from. Knowing their values provides a leader with a navigation tool to direct their way.
Let me give you an example
Imagine that two of the staff have an opportunity to go to a conference. Four of the team members indicate they want to attend. Who gets to go?
Values clarity = Emotional clarity
Value identification also helps you to know why you’re feeling the way you are. When you are irritated, annoyed or frustrated, it is usually because something isn’t in line with your values. Emotional turmoil usually means one of your values is being stepped on. If someone tells a white lie and that irks you, it might be that you appreciate honesty. When one of the people in your unit leaves the staff room counters covered in cookie crumbs, and you get annoyed, it’s likely because you value cleanliness and possibly respect. Identifying those personal values helps you have a polite conversation that will allow you to deal skillfully with the situation rather than respond with passive-aggressive sarcasm.
How do you identify your values?
In truth, it often takes some time to nail them down entirely. As well, your values do change over time. As a start, though, increasing your awareness around naming values when you experience them yourself or see them in others is helpful. That heightened awareness gives you perspective on what you find significant. Use that attentiveness in you to guide you in the following three activities that will provide you with clarity on your core values.
3 ways to help you identify your values.
Reflect on where you are drawn to spend time, energy and resource in your life.
Take some time to look at your life activities both at work and in your personal experiences.
If you value accuracy, you likely spend a lot of time double-checking your work. On the other hand, perhaps the person next to you values expediency and so gets stuff done and moves to the next thing as quickly as they can. If you two are working on a project together, your values might clash.
Journal answers to these questions:
3. Narrow it down
Review a list of values and instinctually pick your top ones
Make identifying and clarify your values a top priority
Identifying your values helps you make tough decisions as you zigzag forward as a leader or manager. Using your values as the guideposts gives you a structure for decision-making. Knowing your values also helps you understand why you're feeling the way you are and gives you words to help sort out conflicts resulting from incongruity. Knowing what's important to you is a huge part of being an effective leader. So take the time to examine your core values that will help guide you along the winding leadership path.
👉 Read this next: Why verifying your values foundational for nonprofit leaders
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.