Values driven leadership, heart led-leadership, leading from your core, leading with purpose, leading from within, whatever you call it we need much more of this inner led leadership in the world right now and much more of it if we are to change the world of work.
I’ve written and spoken many times about my burnout back in 2013 and how one of the steps I took to bring me back from this was realigning to my values. Whilst I had loved the work I was doing, more and more of the work hadn’t been about creating great places to work, it had been increasingly about down-sizing companies and pushing people to do more for less, this was not why I joined the world of HR. The environment, and the seemingly mis-aligned values of the leadership team, created a toxic environment for many, and the illness of me and the two HRD’s before me. Sadly, the HRD to replace me passed away in her sleep whilst away on a leadership retreat with the rest of the Exec.
For many years I have been sharing my views that the leaders who put their people first and lead from their values, will be the leaders who lead thriving organisations, there is no longer a place for leaders who strive for power over their people in “command and control” type environments where people are bottom on the list of priorities.
2020 placed many more leaders under a microscope. How were people being treated as the world of work was forced to change? Which leaders did all they could for their people and their wellbeing and which leaders cared only about money? Which leaders showed compassion, empathy and understanding for their people and which leaders cared only about performance? Which leaders become more visible and led more from their values and which leaders became invisible and led more from their head?
When leaders lead from their core, we feel it. We see it in all they do, we hear it in what they say, and we see it in their actions. And when these core values are missing from words and actions we feel this and see it too.
I wrote yesterday about the first time I was in the audience for a Brené Brown event. From the moment she stepped onto the stage and all throughout the day, the courage, integrity and vulnerability she talks about were present, they filled the room. I’d been to many large events and heard many speakers, few of them were able to talk about authenticity in a way that actually seemed authentic. I remember going to one event in London which was all about the power of storytelling in business. Two great speakers showcased how the power of story had helped them in creating incredible new products and services and how story had helped them engage with their people even more than before. The third speaker, in her first few words, said that her company had invented storytelling – she switched me off immediately.
In saying this, what I believed to be true, was that the two previous speakers had demonstrated story so well that she felt fearful. And so instead of speaking from of her values and telling the story of what her company was doing, which was great by the way, she spoke from fear. She pushed her values to one side as she was listening to the other speakers and she got defensive. This was what stuck throughout everything else she said during her talk.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the 10 Principles and how if we live and lead from these principles than we can lead from our true self. If we follow the same scripts that these principles come from, then we can also understand the barriers to our own success when we are not living by these principles and therefore, when we are not aligned to our values.
The barriers to success are:
· Physical illness or dis-ease – my burnout fits right here
· Apathy, lack of interest and enthusiasm, boredom
· Doubt of our self-worth or ability
· Distraction, negligence and carelessness
· Desire and craving – Imposter syndrome sits nicely into this one
· Living under illusions and misunderstanding – thinking we are better than we are, that we know it all and seeing feedback as an attack
· Doubting progress and our ability to succeed
· And finally, an inability to maintain our achievements
And it’s not to say that these barriers won’t come up from time to time when we are aligned to our core values, but we become aware of them much more quickly and we can questions ‘what’s out of sync?’ and then we get ourselves back on track, living and leading from our values.
If you are experiencing any of these barriers currently, then I’d invite you to get clear on what’s out of alignment for you at the moment. Given all that’s happening in the world right now, it’s easy to say that COVID, lockdown, home-schooling, loss of freedom and the lack of being able to be social could be barriers to our success.
And you may well be right, they are barriers and they are causing many of us upset and fatigue and issues and loneliness and mental health issues, I don't underplay any of this.
And yet, whilst we can’t control the outside world, we can control our inner world. So if you were truly aligned to yourself right now, would there be an opportunity to change your thinking? To see the world to be differently? To be more grateful for what you have? To be more positive? To overcome the obstacles? To make some changes, no matter how small, to help you be and feel more aligned?
The days, weeks and months that I’ve felt totally out of sorts since last March are the days weeks and months where I haven’t been looking after myself, where I’ve spent too long scrolling through news and social media and where I’ve fallen into the Imposter Syndrome Trap – none of these are aligned to my core values. So as soon as I make a change to realign, the barriers to success disappear. The feeling of doubt and worthlessness and suffering and fatigue lessen, and I get back on track. Now to be clear, I’ve been doing this inner work for years, and I’m still learning, so I’m not claiming to have the magic cure to make all of these feelings go away.
But if you, as a leader, were to realign to your values today, what could be different tomorrow?
Leading from your core isn’t always easy, nothing worthwhile ever is, but it is exactly this type of leadership that we need in the world right now, and it all starts with you.
Kelly is an Executive Coach for Rebellious Leaders at kellyswingler.com and Founder of The Chrysalis Crew.
She leads and coaches with an open heart, an open mind and has the courage to challenge the status quo and do things differently so that we can all love our roles, find balance in our lives and so that we can all change the world of work for the better.