An interesting theme emerged as I opened the floor for questions at the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ (VASWCD) 2012 Annual Meeting. This meeting, of over 300 individuals, consisted mostly of volunteers who donate their time and energy to finding ways to strengthen soil and water conservation in Virginia through stewardship and educational programs.

As I was introducing the VASWCD to Values Based Leadership (VBL), their energy and passion were obvious and I noticed our conversation left the group with more questions than answers.  The theme, at first, appeared to be about the role of the government in the VASWCD but after reflection, I saw their interest rise in the concept of ownership in the VBL process.  Who has the right to move an organization towards a values based culture?  Who does it start with and what happens if it is not coming from the top down?  I asked a dozen questions attempting to better understand their structure, which just proved their point – the way the VASWCD is organized is complex!  They were trying to transform themselves while making serious changes in evaluations, conversation, and public awareness.

So who owns the values experience?  We, here at Luck Companies, truly believe all human beings have the extraordinary potential to make a positive difference in the world.  And sometimes it takes one of those extraordinary individuals to pick up the mirror, take a hard look at themselves and make the conscious choice to accept the fact that change starts with them.  What is amazing is how quickly the room absorbed this message.  The VASWCD Director was surprised how many individuals asked how THEY can inspire her!

And it doesn’t matter how long you have been doing it, every day you must make the conscious choice to lead.  I was listening to these 300-plus individuals engage in a discussion around how to implement VBL into their lives.  I always become so caught up in the conversation and energy when all of a sudden someone will make a comment and I will have an “Ah-Ha” moment.

Currently, I am in the middle of a change with our Brand Team.  It is complex in structure and composed of a committed, yet primarily young team that has not faced much change in their careers.  Some recent decisions the team has been making raised my interest in the group’s function, role clarity, and disposition. While I listened to the VASWCD discuss their ownership in their organization’s change, I realized the opportunity with the brand team starts with me.  That I was living the exact same challenge the group in front of me was facing and I needed to heed my own advice – to look in my mirror as I take responsibility for this new team’s success.

The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, outlines this journey, stating it starts with “Modeling the Way.”  Kouzes and Ponsner define leadership as a process ordinary people use when they are bringing forth the best from themselves and others (xxiii).  One cannot start this journey until they are aware of how to bring the best from themselves.  That self-awareness results in aligning our purpose with our values and viewing the evidence in our behaviors.  Kouzes and Posner discovered that “the people who have the clarity about both personal and organizational values have the highest degree of commitment to the organization” (50).  Even an individual with low clarity of organizational values, but high clarity of personal values has a commitment increase of 12.2%.  That means you have the opportunity to dive into who you are, work on developing yourself, and that, in turn, will positively impact your team and organization.

When you are looking to discover where your journey begins do not be afraid to pick up your mirror and consciously take a look.  Regardless of your role, title, or history of behavior you have the opportunity to start every day with the proactive decision and the conscious choice to lead – to lead from a place of alignment, to lead from a place of self-awareness, to lead from a place of straight and beautiful.

Ken Blanchard’s Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager concludes with the perfect quote:

“Ultimately, it’s in your own best interest to accept responsibility for getting what you need to succeed in the workplace.”



Mark Fernandes

Mark Fernandes

Having a passion for inspiring people to believe in themselves and become everything they are capable of becoming, Mark works with individuals and organizations to inspire transformation. @MarkSFernandes

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