Leading from Values

When Mark Fernandes visited us a couple years ago, and led discussions first with our leadership team, and later the division at convocation, he challenged each of us to look at ourselves as leaders and to consider the proposition that we find direction through our values. There was something overwhelmingly refreshing about his story, specifically about how Luck Stone’s compass is not focused on “making rocks” as our own Pete Gretz likes to say, but had a mission that went beyond the bottom line of their business. “Igniting human potential” is their mission and their battle cry. They could be in the education business, perhaps they could make healing drugs, or even great software. But their business is rock. And yet to grow that business and to distinguish it from others, they put a focus on human potential. Refreshing for sure.

This 2011 article made the case for values-based leadership, and from it, I think one paragraph in particular is worth replaying:

In all of these roles I have stayed committed to values-based leadership. No matter what title I’ve had, whether corporate executive, professor, executive partner or board member–or for that matter soccer coach, volunteer parent or Sunday school teacher–I’ve never lost sight of who I am and what matters most to me. By knowing myself and my values, being committed to balance and having true self-confidence and genuine humility, I can far more easily make decisions, no matter if I’m facing a crisis or an opportunity. The answer is always simply to do the right thing and the very best that I can.

Knowing your values can help you do the right thing and also focus your effort on being the best that you can be. And its worth saying here, for those reading, that values-based leadership works in two ways. First, you have to know yourself and your own values. Your values are what make you, you. Its from these that you will act on a daily basis, and when they’re known and focused on positive traits, there’s the potential for great things.

Second, there are the values that define an organization. The values are what you find, but hopefully those are the same values that you see members of an organization attempting to champion. Excellence, creativity, courage, honor, and optimism are hopefully not just words you see on our walls, but the feeling, evidence, and artifacts left behind from interactions with teachers, students, custodians, and bus drivers. In fact, the entire organization might so focused that it’s easy to see these values all around us.

Getting that focus can be difficult. It takes time and effort. But how do we start?

First, consider what each of our ECCHO values means to you. Which ones really resonate? Are their other values that mean something to you? If you are not sure what other values you might consider, look at the Luck Companies’ app called Igniter.

Next, let’s focus on your own set of values. The personal set. For me, one of the ones that feels strongest to who I am is creativity. It drives how I work and the way I make decisions. If it’s who I am, then I need to make sure I am not compromising these value. I might take a week to reflect on how creativity has played a positive role in my work and relationships. Then I might look back on ways I could have been more purposefully engaged with the traits that reveal this value.

Next, we might sit with a small group of colleagues, or even students, and even parents. Where do we see ECCHO? How do these values align with our mission of maximizing the potential of learners? When we look at the full strategic plan, what goals might we set for ourselves in the next month that would help contribute to others seeing excellence, creativity, courage, honor, and optimism all around them, when they interact with us, when they visit our classrooms, or attend one of our meetings?

I believe values stick to us based on our experiences and that has a lot to do with our outlook on life. Likely one of the most sure-fire ways to inspire another person is to let them experience us living through the values that resonate with us. You might be reading this, and asking “Who has the time? I’ve got a job to do!” At the end of the day, our job is inspiring and preparing the next generation. The details matter. It’s about preparing students (and one another) to make a positive impact.

If you’re hungry for more thinking about leading from values, check out Luck’s Value Based Leader blog. Thanks for reading!