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Leadership and Core Values

Does your organization have a set of core values? Are they core values, or are they simply an exercise some consultant took you and your leadership team through several years ago. I’m convinced there is a strong corollary between effective leadership and core values.

First of all, a declaration:

The core values of an organization are the promises it makes to its employees, customers, vendors and community.

When I recognized that core values, at their core, are promises we make, it changed my view of the benefit of having clearly thought-through core values.

For instance, here’s one of our firm’s core values: “Relationships over profits.”  When viewed as a core value, sometimes our team members are not quite sure what that means.  But when we translate that phrase into a promise: “We promise, whenever possible, to seek relationships over profits”, it becomes clear how to live out that core value.  When there is a dispute with a customer over a billing issue, a team member over a payroll issue or a vendor over a billing issue, we seek to preserve the relationship more than we seek the greatest profit.

Here’s another one of our core values: “Submit to strengths and protect weaknesses.”  Once again, when that core value is stated as a promise, acting on it becomes easier.  “We promise to submit to your strengths and protect your weaknesses” works itself out, particularly among team members, when we put team members in positions where they get to do their best, and not their worst, most of the time.

Leadership and Core Values

Leader: does your organization have a set of core values?  How do you translate them into promises you make to one another?  If we are going to lead well, we need to be the chief-promise-makers-and-keepers in our organizations.

Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your habits
Your habits become your values
Your values become your destiny
— Mahatma Gandhi