THE BLOG
08/15/2013 11:46 am ET Updated Oct 15, 2013

Leave Your Values at the Door

As a consultant, I deal frequently with corporate leaders to develop programs in their organizations.

Once I was in a planning session with a new HR director in a company I had been working with for years. Knowing the company's open culture, I was surprised to hear him talking about the need for a top-down management system with leadership limited to the board. "People just need to understand how things will be. We will implement new processes and policies immediately. It's been too touchy-feely, and that's no way to run an organization." Needless to say, his view of leadership didn't have much in common with mine.

I knew that the reversal he was suggesting would go over very badly. A discussion followed in which I tried to explain a view of leadership that was grounded not in the illusion of power but in inclusiveness, agility and adaptability, trust and transparency -- and most of all in appreciation of the people who work hard for the organization.

I suggested that he begin by finding out what people were thinking and feeling. "If you don't invite the people to have a say, your leader will have no one to lead," I told him.

His disagreement was equally strong. "I was hired to do a job, and this is my vision for the company."

"With all due respect," I finally told him, "my values require me to tell you that I don't think this is the right path for the company."

"Leave your values at the door," he barked at me.

Leave my values at the door? Was he kidding? 

Before ending the call I told him, I was done, and I fired myself. And in doing so, I ended our relationship.

I was sad to leave a company where I had put in so much effort and had seen so much good done. But when someone tells you to leave your values at the door, you know nothing you say is going to be heard.

We live our best lives at the intersection of our values and our purpose. If we leave them out, we leave out the best parts of ourselves.

Start with Yourself: Values speak Volume

Your values determine what is important and meaningful to you. They align with your purpose, and speak loudly and passionately to others -- and to yourself -- about who you are and what you're called to do in this world.

There is great power in personal values. If you can define your values and then fearlessly share and live them -- bringing them to every conversation and every experience, they will keep you grounded and consistent in any situation. They will guide and motivate you, drive your decision making and deliver your message.

Heart-Based Leadership: is Values-Based Leadership

A values-based leader is consistent in thought and action, someone who walks their talk.

Our values make us accountable and gives us ownership. Values-based leaders spend time discovering and reflecting on what is important to them, and they make those values known through their thoughts, actions and behaviors. 

When you lead from your values, you become willing to listen to the opinions of others. You demonstrate that everyone matters and that you believe they all have something to teach.

The Values-Based Organization: is Values Shared

An organization that is values-based clearly defines its shared core values.

Such organizations create a culture that in which shared values are the guiding principles for decision-making, actions and behaviors.

Communication and community are important parts of the organization's structure. They create a unified organization and motivated employees.

When organizational values are clearly stated and acted upon, they give everyone knowledge of who they are, effectiveness and efficiency in how they work, accountability for what they do and responsibility for themselves and one another.

When organizations are centered in common values, trust and inclusion emerge. Without values, it is difficult to tackle problems, generate creativity or foster innovation.

An organization's values are the lens through which others see its history, its present experience and its future endeavors.

Processes and practices are important, but so are principles. Without them, the foundation is fragmented and dysfunctional.

We need values-based leaders at every level, and values-based organizations in every field. My message to you is this: Never, never, never leave your values at the door.

Although if you do, my former client's HR director will probably be happy to hire you.

© 2013 Lolly Daskal. All rights reserved.