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What makes a great leader?
Is it someone who takes command with a firm leadership style?
Does it take an ethical leader who seeks to follow their moral compass and embraces the shared values of their employees?
It is all of these things and many more.
If you’re an aspiring leader who is intent on supporting your team, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed at all you need to be. Especially if you're also focusing on transforming and improving organizational culture. And want to be recognized as exhibiting ethical leadership behavior.
Take a breath because we’ve got your back.
We’re going to explore the 13 core values of a leader that you should foster to be the type of leader you dream of.
Let’s start, in a typical leadership style, at a high level.
What are leadership values?
Values are the underlying beliefs that guide our decisions and actions and ultimately shape our days and careers.
Leadership values are a subset of those values that positively influence one’s ability to lead effectively or be a ‘good leader.’
You can foster and develop leadership values with time. However, as with many character traits, you will probably have a tendency toward one specific leadership skill or another.
You can uncover these natural leadership qualities by asking yourself questions such as:
- What values guide my personal life?
- How do I react in common situations (such as when confronted with change)?
- What kind of leaders do I gravitate to (such as a passionate leader or a more strategic leader)? Do you gratitude toward leaders who lead with a strategic foresight?
You should also consider this question: What are the goals, mission, and culture of my company?
The leadership values related to effective leadership at your company will lie at the intersection of your personal values and your company’s values.
The importance of a leader with values
Everyone has values, but not everyone exhibits good leadership values.
Anyone in a leadership role should be aware of the values they hold, their strengths, and the areas they can improve on as they grow as a leader.
Because your values determine how you execute leadership, the team environment you create, and the success of your company. The values you display as a leader will permeate your entire organization and affect its performance.
Leaders who adhere to their values earn respect and commitment from their teams. Value-driven leadership can inspire others not just to follow them but to adopt those values as their own.
By embracing the notion that you can develop leadership qualities, you can also choose leadership values to develop. This is possible both through leadership training and mindful attention and practice.
13 Important values of a leader
Let’s review 13 core values that an outstanding leader should demonstrate.
1. Empowerment and development
As a leader, you are in a position of power.
Instead of trying to keep all that power and control for oneself, an effective leader empowers others and amplifies their own impact as a result.
Empowering others through mentorship and delegation of complex tasks creates a stronger team. With it, you will help build future leaders you can rely on with confidence.
Leaders have the important responsibility of creating and maintaining the organizational vision. What does the company seek to become in the next 5, 10, or 20 years, and what steps are required to realize that goal?
“...As a visionary leader, you should be thinking about more than just the next quarter. You should also be thinking about the next decade, and what your company’s reputation and place in the world will be after 40 quarterly results.”
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
When you center vision as a leadership value, this means you keep the big picture at the forefront of your decision-making.
It also means employing foresight to plan for obstacles. Keep an eye out for anything that may get in the way of your company’s vision, and be ready to update the vision as you gain more experience and information.
Successful leadership also includes the leader’s ability to communicate that vision to their team members. The message must be shared in a meaningful, actionable, and engaging way.
“Communication and communication strategy is not just part of the game—it is the game.”
Oscar Munoz, executive chairman of United Airlines
Communication is the foundation of any relationship.
In a work setting, centering communication as a core leadership value manifests in many ways. It can take the form of conveying context to employees. Or it can be setting clear expectations for individuals and teams. Or even providing and seeking constructive feedback.
A leader may have a clear vision, but unless communication is a driving value, others will not be able to share it.
4. Reinforcement and influence
Positive reinforcement and recognition to your team members are important forms of communication.
“The number one thing that you have to do as a leader: to bolster the confidence of the people you lead.”
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
When things are busy, it can be all too easy to speed along without making an effort to show that you noticed someone’s contribution.
However, positive reinforcement is a huge aspect of improving employee motivation and engagement. Not only that but in lifting your influence as a business leader.
By demonstrating appreciative behavior, you encourage others to reinforce each other too. This helps boost employee morale across the organization.
Empathy is the ability to understand others, see from their point of view, and feel what they are feeling. It is a value that is held in high regard by many senior executives and good business leaders.
The importance of empathy as a leadership value is not simply to be nice or likable. You can build a far stronger team by exercising empathy and understanding each person’s motivations with whom you work.
Empathy will help you match people’s strengths and skills to roles where they can make the most impact. It will help you build and sustain positive and productive relationships. It will also help you recognize the core values of others on your team.
This is the knowledge that you can harness for the betterment of each individual and the company.
Leaders must constantly be learning. To be in that receptive state of mind requires humility.
Opportunities to build wisdom can easily be lost if you are not willing to recognize and process mistakes. Humility also means knowing when to ask for input from others.
If you have a gap in knowledge in a certain area, seek advice from those with more experience or from coaches. If your strategy is not connecting with your audience, consult the people closest to the work or your customers.
Having a strong sense of emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and humility is a key leadership trait. It prevents leaders from becoming insulated from the outside world. In turn, this allows them to focus on becoming better leaders all-around.
7. Passion and commitment
An extraordinary leader is not only capable of commanding influence or communicating successfully.
They are also:
- committed to meeting organizational goals
- passionate about the company and their leadership role within it
- and demonstrate ferocious resolve when faced with adversity
A leader with this kind of mindset can motivate everyone around them. Their passion and energy are so infectious that it drives and uplifts the entire team.
As a leader, you can demonstrate respect through many of the behaviors already listed here:
- Empowering others
- Strong communication skills
- Recognition of employee abilities
- Empathizing with the situations of others
Respect should also move in all directions. Treat upper management, your board, employees, and customers with the respect they deserve to gain respect in return.
It’s also important to build a culture where differences are respected and appreciated. Having diverse viewpoints within the organization is a strength, and those who differ from you in opinion should feel as valued as those aligned with you.
Patience is a value that is often learned with time but is an incredibly important skill for those in leadership roles. At its heart, patience is about delayed gratification.
Leaders need to be patient with new hires who aren’t up to operating speed yet. They also require patience with existing team members who are working out how to deal with complex issues. This is especially true where the leader may be able to tackle with greater ease.
Patience also benefits leaders who have long-term goals, such as quarterly or annual sales targets. These goals can only be achieved incrementally through perseverance and patience.
A key nature of business is change, and as a leader, you often take the brunt of big changes — or even initiate them.
You must be able to weather these times, not only for yourself but for your team.
This is not to say you can’t have human reactions to challenges, but ultimately your team will respond to how you handle hardship and communicate the outcomes.
Employees look to their leaders for cues during unpredictable phases, and a show of resilience at the top will bolster the entire organization.
Resilience has tangible positive outcomes as well. As BetterUp’s study on resilience shows, it increases revenue, encourages innovation, and retains employees.
11. Honesty and transparency
Employees want a coach and leader who is honest and transparent about their performance, business objectives and directives, and internal company politics.
Nobody likes to feel like they are being lied to or deceived. A little leadership authenticity goes a long way.
Transparency does not mean telling everyone everything as soon as you hear it — there is a time and a manner in which to convey information.
You want to be aware of how new information impacts people and impart it with care, utilizing values we’ve discussed like empathy, communication, and respect.
Take a company reorganization, for example. You don’t want to sound the alarm that change is coming before you’ve worked out the details. Nor do you want to spring the news on people the day before everything shifts.
Valuing transparency, in this case, would mean communicating why there is a reorganization and getting other company leaders on board with how it affects them and their teams. It could also include hosting a Q&A for everyone who will be affected and setting clear expectations for how and when changes will occur.
“Being transparent about our plans enables us to get better feedback.”
Shantanu Narayen, chairman, president, and CEO of Adobe Inc.
One of the values that many employees admire in a leader is accountability.
Accountability means taking responsibility for one’s duties and goals and, at times, owning responsibility for the shortcomings of one’s team.
However, strong leaders also need to be prepared to hold their employees accountable for the tasks they are responsible for, which helps to promote personal growth with your team.
Integrity is a character trait that gains respect and trust.
As a leader, integrity means approaching all of your work with consistency and coherency: the way you communicate with others, carry out your organization’s mission, and approach new situations.
Integrity means honoring commitments (including to yourself) and doing what you say you will do, as well as approaching challenges in ways that are coherent with other values and beliefs.
Leading with integrity can sound abstract because it encapsulates so much, but you can think of it as integrating all of your core leadership values — the end doesn’t justify the means if the means violate our core values.
The people who work for us notice if we only exhibit our values when times are good. By knowing your leadership values, reviewing them, and having them guide your actions, you will be leading with integrity no matter what your company faces.
Core values of a leader make for great leadership
Becoming a great leader is a journey and one which will last your entire career.
Of course, the sooner you start focusing on these leadership values, the faster you’ll become the leader you want to be:
- Empower and development
- Reinforcement and influence
- Passion and commitment
- Honesty and transparency
Are you looking for a helping hand in developing your leadership skills? Check out how we help leaders grow.