What Are Your Values? Why Should You Care?
When thinking about leadership we often think about the skills an ideal leader possesses and which of those skills we also excel at. While being aware of leadership skills is important, there are other aspects to leadership that require an acute sense of self awareness. Identifying your core values is one of the major ways to become a better leader. There is a model of leadership called the Social Change Model of Leadership Development which focuses on the eight c’s of leadership. The Social Change Model explores what it means to be a leader individually, in a group, and in the community in order to effectively create change. One of the c’s in the individual bubble is consciousness of self, which basically means being aware of the values beliefs and emotions that motivate you to take action (Wagner, 47). Our values have a direct effect on the decisions we make as leaders, which makes our understanding of them essential to our growth.
I had never really stopped to think about what I value until I came to college. No one had ever educated me on the importance of not only identifying, but understanding my values. After getting involved on campus and being exposed to a variety of leadership training, I was able to identify four or five values that are essential to who I am. The first time I did a values exercise was in my honors class, Explorations in Leadership. In class we were given a pretty hefty list of values and were tasked with identifying our top ten. Then we were forced to narrow it down again and again and again until we were left with only one value. The value we were left with became our core value, or the one value that guides us the most through life. Doing this activity was extremely challenging because I knew that I valued a lot more than just one thing. However, when I finally narrowed my list down to just one I was left with relationships as my core value. From this short, challenging activity I felt like I learned a lot about who I am as a person and a leader. Building relationships with those around me is what drives me. In my various leadership roles I try my best to get to know the people on my team because I believe it makes us more efficient and successful. Realizing that I placed such a high value on relationships helped me be more aware of myself and those around me. It also provided an explanation for why I lead the way I do and why I make the decisions I make.
Since then I have been involved in multiple other workshops and situations where I have been asked to identify my core values. One thing I noticed is that some of my values have changed over time. As I continue to learn and grow I find myself placing importance on different values from when I was just starting out. It is okay for your values to change as you gain new experiences and learn new things about yourself and the world. Now I’m not saying you should be changing your mind completely everyday about what you value because that would be extremely confusing for both you and the people you lead. What I am saying is that it is okay to find motivation from new things as you continue to discover who you are.
I was reading an article earlier this week about values and there was a quote that really stuck out to me: “When our core values are clear to us, we have a greater sense of self and how we orient to the world. When we have not clearly identified these core values, we often have powerful and surprising responses to situations that directly or even indirectly conflict with these values” (Stevenson 2013). This idea sums up why focusing values is essential to growth as a leader. I have spent a lot of time in class thinking about the “why?” Why do I act the way I do? Why did I make this decision? Why do I agree with this idea? Why do I disagree with this approach? A lot of questions that start with why can be traced back to core values. As leaders, our awareness of what we value ultimately leads to a better understanding of ourselves and why we agree or disagree with other people, organizations and approaches to problem solving.
Wagner, Wendy, Daniel Ostick, and Susan Komives. n.d.Leadership for a Better World: Understanding the Social Change Model of Leadership Development. National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs.