Leading through your values with values-based leadership

Values-based Leadership

Our April Topic at The Lola is values-based leadership. At The Lola we aim to spotlight and raise the voices of those leaders and changemakers that are taking the unconventional path and risks to lead differently, wholeheartedly and through their values. Not only are they making waves and creating disruption in the work they do, but more importantly, the way they work and how they lead. It can be seen in how they move through the world and how they show up, their self-awareness and willingness to own their flaws, their level of emotional intelligence, empathy for others and an ability to create trust. Plus, above all, their willingness to be vulnerable creates a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.

What is values-based leadership?

Values-based leadership is when leaders draw on both their own core values and the negotiated and defined values of the work organisation for guidance and motivation.
— Pat Joseph

Management vs. leadership

Leadership is best described as encouraging and supporting people toward a new direction or vision. Managers focus on transactions and things, while leaders focus on relationships and people.

60% of first-time managers don’t get any training for how to do it. We must be and develop leaders, not just bosses, being a leader requires self-awareness.
— Center for Creative Leadership

Key Elements of Values-Based Leadership:

  • Practicing Self Reflection and Self Awareness – Self-awareness includes specifying to yourself the things you care about, striving to understand your values, likes, and dislikes. Gain greater self-awareness by practicing self-reflection
  • Having an open mind and taking on others’ perspectives – It’s important we take into account the perspectives of others. Have an open mind and be able to see situations from multiple perspectives
  • Developing self-confidence and a growth mindset – Acceptance of your own strengths and weaknesses and a practice of continually striving to be better. While this can be challenging, we can all struggle with imposter syndrome throughout our lives, there are practical steps you can take to improve your self-confidence.
  • Having Humility – Never forget who you are or where you came from. Having humility and taming our ego, gives us perspective and helps us treat others with respect and kindness.

Everyone comes to possess and maintain authenticity in their own ways, but with the basis of these steps, and coming to understand ourselves as well as those around us more, we can effectively lead through values-based leadership.

To be a values-based leader, you must be willing to look within yourself through regular self-reflection and strive for greater self-awareness. After all, if you aren’t self-reflective, how can you truly know yourself?
— Forbes

Take ownership of your leadership development

Once you have a clear sense of who you are;

  1. Assess and evaluate. Are your behaviors aligned with your beliefs? Decide what you are willing to give up, or reclaim.
  2. Take action. The actions taken do not have to be huge, the smallest actions can help put into motion what you’re working towards too.
  3. Get support. Build your network and ask for help. The people around us are great resources in nurturing our personal development. Center for Creative Leadership

Organizational culture

“Simply put, organizational culture is the collective result of how people on the team think and behave, their shared values and how they react to internal and external stimuli. Company culture is either decisively created and nurtured from the very beginning or – more typically – it develops haphazardly over time through the beliefs and experiences of those on the team.” – Forbes

People are mostly motivated by values and live according to these beliefs

Melinda Gates, the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, knows that leading with love in a workplace livens up the environment. “We never understand what issues are unfolding in our employee’s personal lives, making the effort to provide a comfortable and empathetic space for these individuals is vital to their work performance. “When you reach out and connect with somebody over their humanity, that ultimately is love,” Gates said in an interview with Business Insider.

The energy of the environment

Leaders are responsible for creating and maintaining the energy of their workplaces and building positive energy at work. Allowing individuals to feel welcome to assert their input into the organization allows freedom for vulnerability, allowing those who are usually unheard to be heard and seen. Pushing and challenging each employee to strive to be better is what a good leader does, even if that includes getting out of our own comfort zones.

A negative work environment often stems from shame and our inability to be vulnerable. This starts at the top, as leaders we must work on ourselves first, so we are then able to address it in our workplace culture too.

Being a great leader takes courage, but you can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability. Leaders must spend a reasonable amount of time attending to their fears and feelings or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective or unproductive behavior.
— Brene Brown.

The importance of inclusivity in leadership

As a womxn, trying to conform to notions that are not authentic to ourselves is exhausting, for womxn of color it is exponentially harder. Womxn of color are continually forced to code-switch in the workplace, and face daily microaggressions, at great cost to their happiness, productivity and personal well being. Even at inclusive companies, womxn of color don’t feel supported.

Today, the world is calling for a new kind of leader. We are “talking the talk” on diversity but even when we hire people of color, we do little to change the culture, our expectations and the way we work, so they want to stay. Unfortunately, whether we are aware of it or not, we live in a world (and workplaces) where white supremacy culture is the default culture. As leaders we must take the time to better understand this concept and the harm it does and realize it’s the air we all breathe daily, it’s impossible to separate ourselves from it. If we’re not actively working to correct it then we are implicit in maintaining it.

Disrupting grind culture is a good place to start. We also need to work towards a model of empathy and accountability with the power of listening and believing, to create transformative cultures and take strategic and sustainable actions to create non-reactive, intentional, accountable, and transformational change.

Leading through crisis

Values-based leadership is the practice that time in and time out promotes improved job performance as well as connectedness between employees in the workplace. It turns previously hostile or negative environments into the ones that aren’t just bearable, but also meaningful. Through values unique to the leading individual, such as love, empathy, kindness, honesty, and vulnerability, we can express the most authentic parts of ourselves while leading for the greater good of others

In times of crisis, it’s even more important to lead through values. We’re currently going through an ongoing pandemic and racial/equity crisis, which is not something we can just manage our way out of, we need to lean on our values-based leadership skills more than ever.

When that inevitable crisis occurs, and employees and the organization share common values, members of the organization will continue exemplifying the organizational values daily and will:

  • Ask what needs to be done.
  • Volunteer to work, step up and work outside the box.
  • Cleave together to share concerns, workload, or to figure out how to produce work in the new environment.
  • Step up to lead when necessary and follow when asked.
  • Adjust to the change and support the new normal, so long as it continues to support the shared values. ICMA

What will female leadership look like in a post-pandemic world?

We know female leaders have been exiting the workforce in alarming numbers over the past year but has the pandemic set female leadership back for the long term?


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