Leadership Values: The Key to Effective Leadership
The business world is often goal-driven. Organizational key performance indicators (KPIs) are the primary focus. Of course, it’s a practical approach to ensure the stability and viability of a company. However, a business’s foundation is more than numbers and milestones. It’s the people within it who drive growth and sales.
What often gets lost in the shuffle is the importance of leadership values.
Leaders can be great if they motivate their people to do their best. However, it shouldn’t come at the price of employee retention, morale, and job satisfaction. Remember, this individual sets the tone. There’s a big difference between wanting to meet your goals and having to do it.
As Ronald Reagan said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” Accomplishing it depends upon the character and integrity of the individual at the helm.
The Importance of Leadership Values
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of leadership values. After all, they define corporate culture. Consider their impact on the employees. According to a survey by EY Consulting, 90 percent of individuals believe empathetic leadership is imperative for job satisfaction.
Interestingly, 93 percent of employers are worried about increasing attrition rates. The Great Resignation told the story. Yet, organizations hold the key to reducing turnover. The survey also found that 79 percent of respondents felt empathetic leadership could boost employee retention. If the answer is evident, why do only 29 percent of workers describe their leaders as compassionate?
Maya Angelou probably summarized it best when she said, “I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.” It’s unfortunate, given it’s one of the most coveted leadership values and can offer a path toward growth and company success. Yet, often management feels it’s a weakness and shows their vulnerabilities.
We can speak of transactional, strategic, or contingency leadership. Different individuals facilitate teams with various styles that may work best under specific situations. Nevertheless, employees want clear expectations, no matter who is in charge. The number one competency they look for in employers is an ethical and moral character. That makes a strong case for human leadership.
This mindset recognizes that the critical factor for motivation and team building is employee engagement. That means recognizing your staff as individuals with lives and challenges outside of work. It also involves understanding their personal needs for being able to offer input in their training and career paths. That simple act can boost engagement 3.5 times.
Definitions of good leadership often reference the emotional intelligence of the individual. There are many facets to this trait. It’s a fair assumption that it’s the foundation of core values and ethical leadership. But what else makes a good leader a great one?
Common Leadership Values
We can characterize leadership principles in two broad categories. Personal values describe the traits one uses to relate to people on an individual level. They certainly aren’t confined to the workplace. They involve qualities we seek in a partner, instill in our children, and strive to improve in ourselves.
Workplace values govern our work relationships, whether with co-workers or employees. The seeds of our personal values provide the fodder for nurturing them on the job. They inform us to make decisions and practice professionalism as the bar for the organizational culture. Like a Venn diagram, the two categories overlap and feed one another. Together, they make up the scope of leadership values.
Personal values include traits we admire in honorable individuals. They embrace integrity, respect, and empathy. We view them as honest and moral. We feel safe around them because we trust them. They are committed to an organization’s vision. Hypocrisy is not in their vocabulary. Instead, they embody authenticity. What you see is what you get. It is one of the best practices of emotional intelligence.
It’s evident when you meet an emotionally intelligent leader. They’re not afraid to show their humility and vulnerabilities. Their journey of self-awareness has made human leadership possible with these individuals. They get you because they recognize their flaws and shortcomings in other people. It gives them patience and adaptability when change demands it.
These values are intangible yet indispensable for an organization. You can think of them as insurance against adversity and uncertainty. Organizations might not always be able to anticipate these situations, which can make them even more debilitating without a plan. However, a person with these values can lead teams forward even when headwinds threaten progress.
Trust and respect are vital traits in these leaders. They allow their employees to speak freely, tapping into sometimes hidden sources of potential. They thrive on empowering others. However, to get to this place, they realized early that they had to begin with themselves. This process sowed the seeds for the personal values we discussed.
That path also empowered these individuals to hone their leadership values. Critical thinking and the ability to see the big picture help them with problem-solving and decision making, vital skills for successful leaders. They inspire others through their actions and demonstrate leadership accountability. Employees feel the outward gratitude these individuals show their employees.
Other leadership values include openness and fairness. These individuals foster psychological safety in the workplace. However, that doesn’t distract from personal accountability. That makes them reliable. You know they will have your back as long as you’re equally fair in doing your part.
Transparency is another desirable leadership value. It feeds on trust, team-building, and openness. People want to know they’re doing worthwhile work. Transparency ensures that the employees know their organization’s purpose and what its vision is for the future. It also empowers team members by letting them see their contribution to the efforts.
These leaders may seem utopian. After all, humans are flawed animals. We make mistakes. We don’t communicate as clearly as we should all the time. Some say that individuals like John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln were born leaders. Is that why history has recorded so few? Is it possible to mold likely candidates with professional development and mentorship?
Developing Strong Leadership Values
A good moral character is a basis for developing strong leadership values. We also discussed the importance of self-awareness and its power to bring out these traits in individuals. It is possible to nurture these existing values to develop and strengthen them. It can be part of a succession plan to identify the next generation of leaders in an organization.
An assessment of a person’s emotional intelligence is another excellent starting point. You often see glimpses of one’s true character when you’re faced with adversity. Their moral compass points their actions in the right direction. These individuals may require additional guidance to bring their leadership values to the forefront.
The Leadership Mindset
A leader has to develop the mindset to bring value to an organization. That must happen on the individual and workplace levels. One essential part of the process is putting empathy into action. Often, managers fall into the curse of knowledge trap. They can only see things from their perspective. They forget what it was like to first embark on understanding an organization’s culture.
That’s where patience comes into the game. Instead of being critical of a new hire, put yourself in their shoes. Imagine what they’re thinking and feeling. Memories may offer an experience to which you can relate. Consider what you would have liked to have heard during that time. Humor is an excellent icebreaker. Your effort to make the individual comfortable shows empathy and that you care.
Assuming isn’t something great leaders do. They ask questions. Everyone has a story. Take the time to learn it with active listening. It’s such a simple yet powerful gesture. It’s also a great way to find out what an individual can bring to the team. You may discover an individual is a fantastic organizer through their volunteer work. That person could be an ideal candidate for shared leadership during knowledge work.
The honesty of self-awareness can provide enlightening insights into what roles individuals are best suited to fulfilling. The leadership mindset employs its vision for this task. Great leaders know their strengths and limitations. However, it doesn’t get in the way of them doing their jobs. Instead, they optimize their teams by filling them with talented individuals.
The security and confidence of successful leaders allow them to delegate without feeling threatened. Teams function optimally thanks to the personal and workplace values these individuals embrace. It’s not just satisfying for leaders. It also benefits organizations that employ people of this caliber. What starts at the individual level permeates the entire company.
Different people have various leadership styles. It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. That’s good because most projects have multiple elements that some handle better than others. A successful leader sees these possibilities using the values and skills they’ve nurtured for their role. Empathy underscores every single one. Great leaders genuinely care about their people and show it.
The well-being of their employees is paramount.
Adaptability is a critical trait for leaders in today’s changing world. Think how quickly organizations had to pivot during the onset of the pandemic. Confidence and courage are vital for leading teams during leadership situations. Finally, these individuals are authentic. They don’t promote an agenda. They are genuine, which builds trust.
Leaders wear different hats which use different compositions of leadership values. Some people shine at problem-solving. They are critical thinkers who are reliable with their consistency. Others are visionaries. They focus on the future and ride the train on the tracks of an organization’s objectives and key results (OKRs). They are integral to crisis management.
Transformational leaders bring the qualities of the two types together. Their strength lies in the culture of collaboration they create. They motivate and inspire team members when times get rough. They are models of accountability. Humility comes into play with this value. Great leaders don’t blow their own horns. However, it’s easy to see the results this work ethic brings to the team.
Servant leadership is a model for implementing values in the workplace. These individuals epitomize empathy by placing the needs of others first. They bring about change not by demanding but by convincing others through persuasion. They are logical, which comes through in their arguments. It also shows transparency in sharing the thinking behind corporate decisions.
Best Practices for Developing Leadership Values
A lot can be said for paying attention to how you interact with people and vice versa. It involves the words you use, your engagement style, and your body language. The smallest gesture can speak volumes. Watch how others respond to your words and actions to understand how you’re being perceived by others.
We’re not talking about just observing the members of your organization. All your interactions tell you something about your communication skills. We also suggest watching other people interact. Great leaders know that learning is a lifelong pursuit.
The importance of leadership values is apparent when you consider the benefits they bring to companies. No organization can afford not to embrace ways to improve morale and job satisfaction. Leaders have realized the significance of the mental health of their employees and how it can bolster engagement and performance. It’s the proverbial win-win.
Leadership values begin at the individual level with integrity, humility, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence. They incorporate the tools leaders need for sound decision-making, effective problem-solving, and fair conflict resolution. The result is resilience during difficult times. Encouraging these traits is the best way to safeguard an organization’s survival in uncertain times.
Kutsko Consulting can help you develop great leaders who have the leadership values for success. We offer emotional intelligence testing and coaching services to help your people realize their potential. Sign up for our free preview course today to learn more.
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