Leadership: Do You Practice What You Preach?

Leadership ValuesBeing a leader is certainly not an easy job. As a leader, you have to deal with high levels of responsibility and pressure. Expectations are very high, no matter where they come from.

Take the expectations of those who you lead, for example: they expect you to motivate, inspire and guide them. They want you to be courageous, wise, fair and credible. They turn to you when no one knows what to do. They look up to you and hope you are the one who does the right thing. It may sound like a lot, but that’s what for them – justifies your high salary.

If you fulfill those expectations, chances are that the influence you exert is big. And influence is crucial in gaining your team’s willingness to coordinate their efforts towards organizational goals. As I write this article, Harvard Business Review coincidentally posts an article written by Linda A. Hill is the Wallace Brett Donham, which links trust to influence, and reinforces what I have just said. (This synchronicity scares me, by the way)

If you were a leader in the 1990’s, I’d probably present you a list of motivational and inspirational techniques to help you better influence your team. Times have changed, though. These days, your team has read the same books you’ve read (or even more!). Information has become more accessible, and workers more independent and emancipated. They know the “tricks” and don’t fall for them anymore.

Nowadays, your team looks much more at who you are and what you do. They observe how you make your decisions and pay attention to the choices you make. They judge your behavior, evaluate your performance and decide for themselves whether you deserve to be followed or not. And while they may agree with you in public, they might disagree with you once you turn your back and leave the meeting room.

If tricks don’t work in this emancipated and extremely demanding work environment anymore, what is it that makes your team follow you and dedicate their time and effort in helping you achieve your company’s organizational goals? How do you get all the vectors to point to the same direction? How on earth do you win your team’s commitment?

This is when your company’s Core Values play an important role. Core Values are, in our ever changing and demanding times, a constant which you can use to guide you in your behavior, your choices and your decisions. Core Values are the laws that rule every employee in the company, from the receptionist to the C-level executive like you.

But how exactly do Core Values help you? Here’s one example: instead of making decisions based on a pros-cons equation, try letting your options be guided by your company’s Core Values. Ask yourself which course of action complies with those Values. Or try to see which action those Values ask from you in this situation. When you finally see that your choice agrees with those Values and translates them, take it. Otherwise, leave it.

Using your company’s Core Values to guide you makes your job a lot easier. It helps you put an end to your dilemmas, prevents you from making bad choices and from letting your own personal interests play a role in your decisions. Consequently, your team sees you as a trustworthy, fair, reliable, credible and consistent person. They become more open and approachable, and more willing to cooperate.

However simple it may sound, do not be trapped by the illusion that this is easy. It’s not! Just to give you an example, imagine Respect is one of your company’s Core Values. If you choose to act accordingly, you must show Respect in everything you do and say, continuously and repeatedly – every day. Core Values are not something you set and achieve, they are something you practice.

You may even realize that you must reprimand or punish someone’s behavior if it contradicts your company’s Core Values – fire someone who has been disrespectful to his secretary, for example. You must act like a sentinel, who protects and defends your company’s Core Values, and makes sure they are practiced at all levels. So above as below.

Are you ready to be a personalization of your company’s Core Values? Are you ready to practice what you preach?

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  1. Great article, spot on. Core values are the bit that makes leadership works, but also unites it with everything else in the firm. When people don’t know what to talk about in Marketing – core values, when they’re not sure how to work with new prospects – core values.

  2. Sandro,
    An excellent article. I note that in Jim Collins’ latest book, Great by Choice, he would agree with you on the subject of core values. He goes further with what he calls a SMaC recipe:
    • Specific, Methodical and Consistent practices.
    • Not the same as a strategy, culture, core value, purpose or tactics.
    • A set of durable operating practices that create a replicable and consistent success formula.
    • It is clear, concrete and enables the entire company to unify and organize its efforts, giving clear guidance regarding what to do and what not to do.
    • It reflects empirical validation about what actually works and why.

    I also believe that you are on the mark when you talk about the visible behaviors of a leader. I made a separate post on another article on that subject today.

    Keep up the great work.


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