In one of our leadership training programs, we conduct an exercise that is intended to get leaders to look at themselves from a somewhat different perspective. It could be an exercise that you might want to do as well.
To start, answer the following questions:
1) My mother taught me that leaders are …
2) My father taught me that leaders are …
3) In my early school years, I learned that leaders are …
4) As a teenager, I saw leaders as …
5) From previous managers, I learned that leaders are …
After reflecting on the above responses, select the most important leadership lessons you have ever learned. Note what happened, when it happened, who was involved, etc. Describe the details vividly. Many of these lessons are positive. However, some of the greatest learning moments come from very negative experiences and role models.
Having reflected on those experiences above, begin to highlight the values behind the positive experiences. Make a long list. Value lists that I have seen include the following: family, accountability, passion, fairness, lifelong learning, integrity, loyalty, trust, consistency, honesty, and respect for every individual. It is important that you define your own.
Once you are satisfied that the list is complete, narrow the values down to six, then to four, and finally to the most important two. As I have observed leaders going through this process, they get a deeper understanding not only of how they look to their people, but also of who they really are.
Now that you are down to the most important two values, the two that define you, answer the following questions:
1) If your boss asked you to do something that was inconsistent with either of those two fundamental values, what feeling would it cause in you?
2) If your boss asked you to do something that was inconsistent with either of those two values, what impact would it have on your relationship – with your boss and with your organization?
Anytime we are asked to do things that are not in line with our core values, the damage can be fairly heavy. The reason is that values are at the deepest part of who we are. We tend to judge others at different levels. We often admire people for what they have. On the other hand we respect them for what they do. Mother said that actions speak louder than words. At the deepest, most fundamental level, we trust people for who they are. With that understanding, if you want to build trust as a leader, conduct yourself as a positive, value-driven individual.
And if you want to connect with your team at an even deeper level, have it go through the exercise as well. It can be a strong team builder!
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