Leveraging Your Core Values to Perform as a Leader

Not too long ago, I was talking to a recent grad school graduate. We were on the subject of career paths, so I asked him, What’s the criteria for choosing where you’re going to work? Without missing a beat, this young man replied, There’s only one criteria, right?? — Money.

I was curious, so I asked him to elaborate. He shared that he had already invested so much in graduate school therefore he was sure that the highest compensation would bring him the most joy. I was reminded that even our brightest young people can still fall victim to some common mistakes. Thinking it’s all about the paycheck is just one.

From my early stock car racing days to my first formal leadership role over 30 years ago as the night shift foreman at Luck’s Fairfax quarry, I have learned a lot. And when I think about what young leaders need to know to succeed, I have a few fundamental beliefs:

1. You won’t get anything done by yourself. Often new leaders don’t take the time to build relationships with their fellow associates. They land a new job and are solely focused on proving that they’re worthy. They want to knock out the projects and hit their deadlines. They want to be the hero. They make it all about themselves, while the rest of the team is left standing on the sidelines. I’m a huge believer that nobody does anything without others. At work, and in life, there is a critical interdependency that happens. When you start a new job, it’s vital to connect with other people. Understand other people. If the only time you interact with everyone else is when you need something, then you haven’t built the relationships. Invest the time to build the relationships. Because then you can go ask for help.

2. The eight pounds on your shoulders is the most complex thing I know of. You must have self-awareness before you can expect to understand and lead other people. At Luck we use an assessment tool called Insights Discovery. Insights helps participants identify their personal style and that of others. It also indicates potential strengths, weaknesses, value to teams, and management preferences. You are who you are, and that is your leadership style. Think about it. If you’re somebody who is super analytical, you’re probably not going to transform into somebody who isn’t. It’s important to come as you are, with a style that’s natural to you. And then adapt your style to meet the needs of others. The most successful leaders know themselves, know their style, and learn the Values Based Leadership tools and apply them.

3. Your core values are essential. The biggest influence on you is not your style. It’s your core values. Your core values are your guiding beliefs and principles. It’s what people see that comes from deep inside you. You might have a core value of financial austerity or efficiency or innovation. Identify the “gotta have” core values and the behavior of each value. Then go job hunting looking for those values and behaviors. If you see the values and behaviors you will be looking forward to going to work. If you do not see the values and behaviors check that company off the list and never turn back.

4. You don’t control anybody but yourself. So, leadership adaptability is key. Harnessing a high emotional intelligence will give you enormous advantages in life. Work places are relationship environments where navigating conflict and driving success are intricately melded. Some people who walk the earth are clueless as to what’s going on around them. They make the same mistakes over and over. Whether it’s a 2 X 4 over the head or the slightest way somebody says something that shows that they’re disappointed or happy, they don’t seem to get any of the signals. Leaders with a high emotional intelligence are constantly watching, listening, and observing what’s going on around them. They are then able to adapt and respond to situations more effectively.

5. Finally, this isn’t just about work. It’s about life. I know you can use all of this to be the most effective and best version of yourself. Whether it’s with your family, friends, or colleagues.

At the end of the day I believe we go through life in constant interaction with other people. All this is about how we can interact and be the most effective version of ourselves. So live on purpose aligned with your values, enjoy life and have a positive impact on others.