A leader who embodies a well-defined set of positive values is best placed to create a happier and more productive working environment for their team. But it’s not as simple as it sounds, values are mutually-reinforcing. That means that, once a leader begins to embody the most fundamental positive values, it becomes second-nature for them to embody more positive values, too. In doing so, values-led leaders can go from being good leaders, to being great leaders.
Which leadership values are best for improving employee retention? Which leadership values are best for increasing productivity?
Here are ten of the most important values for a great leader to embody:
What does it mean for a leader to have integrity?
For a leader, integrity means being open and honest in their intentions, acting in accordance with those stated goals, and accepting responsibility for the outcomes of those actions.
Why is integrity an important value for a leader to embody?
Acting with integrity makes it easier for a leader to embody many more of the positive values that we will go on to discuss. Leading by example and demonstrating true integrity through words and deeds is essential for earning the trust of a team. And by creating an environment where integrity is valued, a leader can lay the foundations for other positive values to flourish, including honesty in communication, accountability and respect.
We all know what honesty means in everyday life, but for those in leadership roles honesty is especially important. This means being clear with others about shared goals, about challenges that lie ahead, and about the likely results of everyone’s efforts. But it also means the leader being ready to hear the honest opinions of their team, being receptive to both positive and negative feedback.
Honesty is closely related to integrity. Demonstrating honesty helps earn mutual trust and respect between a leader and their team. Creating a workplace where honesty is welcome makes employees confident in speaking up when they encounter problems or when they have great solutions to offer. Honesty is also a vital component of accountability.
Accountability means applying honesty when talking about the aims and outcomes of actions. It is not a matter of punishing poor performance, rather it is a way of identifying where improvements can be made and rewarding those who contribute to a team’s goals.
Accountability is fundamental to leadership. It enables a leader to see how plans and actions lead to outcomes, and then to optimize ongoing plans for better outcomes. Accountability is, therefore, indispensable for a leader who wants to drive change. But accountability is hard to achieve without a healthy dose of the next value we will look at…
A great leader recognizes that they can’t always find all the right answers on their own, that a team is not there to follow blindly, but to collaborate actively.
Humility helps leaders to be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, and to work in synergy with their team. Humility breaks down potential barriers between the leader and their team, encouraging better teamwork and fostering mutual trust. Without humility, a leader cannot fully benefit from the expertise, intelligence and skills of their employees. However, to feel these benefits, humility has to be combined with open communication.
For a leader, communication doesn’t simply mean giving directions to a team and hoping for the best. It means being a listener, too. This requires openness to hearing ideas that may challenge the way the leader thinks
When ideas can be shared freely and frankly, innovation can really start to happen. Without openness in communication, opportunities can be missed, and potential threats can go unnoticed. When planning business transformation, openness about plans and outcomes, and willingness to adapt based on feedback openly offered, are vital for winning buy-in from all stakeholders.
An empathetic leader puts time and effort into understanding the thoughts and feelings of their team and considers these when making business decisions. This means being clued-up about the dynamics of the team they lead, their interpersonal relationships, and how these influence business outcomes.
Empathy leads to better communication and a more harmonious working environment. No-one wants to work in an unhappy environment, so there are immediate benefits on a personal level to being an empathetic leader. But there are further benefits from a business perspective, too. Not least, better employee retention, which reduces the cost of replacing staff and keeps hard-won expertise within the organization.
Being consistent means being fair in how policies are applied: avoiding being perceived as giving preferential treatment to one employee over another or making arbitrary decisions. It means being reliable over time, a consistent leader doesn’t change their approach on a whim but based on evidence and with the consensus of their team.
Consistency is very difficult to achieve, requiring true discipline on the part of the leader. And, even when consistency is achieved, there are always unforeseen circumstances waiting around the corner to throw things out of balance again. Nevertheless, lack of consistency will undermine the leader’s work at embodying any of the other values we’ve discussed, and inconsistency can lose a leader the all-important trust of their team.
A trusted leader is one that appreciates the two-way nature of trust. Employees have to be confident that their leader will act in the best interests of the organization and the people within it. Likewise, the leader must trust that their employees have the right abilities and the best intentions to reach their shared goals.
Everything gets easier when you have mutual trust. For example, trust eliminates the temptation to micromanage, avoiding developing a habit that is time consuming for a leader and frustrating for their employees. Trust makes for a more efficient, more productive and happier workplace.
A leader who craves respect for its own sake can very easily alienate their team. Like trust, respect should be mutual, and based on appreciation of the personalities, expertise and values of everyone on the team.
When, through both their words and their actions, a leader lets their employees know that they are respected, those employees are far more likely to remain dedicated to their work. This means goals are reached more quickly, corners are not cut, and employees stay longer in the organization.
Self-awareness allows a leader to reflect on how fully they are a force for positivity in their organization, and where there is room for them to improve. Being self-aware requires that a leader already embodies the values of honesty, humility and integrity.
Without some degree of self-awareness, it is impossible for a leader to properly assess the extent to which they embody positive values. This is important, because all the positive values discussed in this article are, to some extent, mutually reinforcing. This makes achieving self-awareness an important step towards cultivating a more values-led leadership style.
How do I cultivate a values-led leadership style in my organization?
Contact us today to find out how we can help you to bring together leaders and high-potential employees from throughout your organization, embarking on a journey towards a more values-led culture.