Dr Alex Morris:
“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave 'em all over everything you do”
― Elvis Presley
When we like and respect a leader what is it about them that we actually admire? What are the common features? When we step back to think about commonalities, it’s about their values. These are often values that we share, admire or aspire to. When we think about leadership, we frequently think about ‘leading others’, but when we do this we often forget that to be a good leader we need to lead ourselves.
How we lead ourselves has a profound effect on our success as leaders of others. Business experts make the case that purpose is a key to exceptional performance, while psychologists describe it as the pathway to greater well-being. However, we find with our work with senior leaders across a wide range of private and public industries that it’s surprising how few people can articulate their values or purpose when asked. Many leaders know their vision or the company mission - think of Google’s “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” or IKEA’s: "To create a better everyday life for the many people."- but can struggle to articulate what gets them out of bed every morning.
One of our goals is to help change that—to help leaders find and define their leadership purpose and put it to use. Identifying what really matters to us can enable us to use that self-awareness to make a real difference to our leadership, engagement and fulfilment. This is authentic leadership-rather than asking people to emulate someone else, we work to help people to be the best version of themselves that they can be, identifying their values and purpose as a bedrock to developing themselves as leaders.
At its core, your leadership purpose springs from your identity, the essence of who you are. Purpose is not a list of the education, experience, and skills you’ve gathered in your life. Your purpose should be specific and personal and resonate with you alone. To discover your purpose, we often find that you first need to be aware of your values. Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. Once you know them, you can then make sure that you are strategically driving your direction to enable you to unleash your values-based potential.
Of course, it’s very difficult for any of us to fully live our purpose 100% of the time. But with self-reflection, some work and some planning, we can do it more often, more intentionally, more passionately, and more effectively.
In this blog, I will share one of my core values and what it means to me and in future blogs other members of the Strategic Awareness team will share one of theirs.
Alex: One of my core values is ‘making a difference’ and I explain why this value is so important to me personally and in my work here. I believe that we are all connected - everything we say and do ripples out to affect the world around us. As Herman Melville wrote:
“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibres, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”
I am often reminded that it’s not material things, but our connections—to colleagues, friends, family, strangers, the living world, the atoms and the stars—that are our real treasures in life, and most deserving of our time and attention.
I also believe there is truth in the thoughts of physicist and philosopher, Sean Carroll (2016 p. 23) who argues “All lives are different, and some face hardships that others will never know. But we all share the same universe, the same laws of nature, and the same fundamental task of creating meaning and of mattering for ourselves and those around us in the brief amount of time we have in the world”. While acknowledging cultural, social and political differences, it is this ‘interconnectedness’ that underpins why I feel a responsibility to make a difference in the world. And it is a responsibility. For me I can do this through the people that I interact with and work with.
What are your core values and how do you live them?
“Living in a way that reflects one's values is not just about what you do it is also about how you do things.”
― Deborah Day