Evan Goodman

Leading by Your Values (Part 1)

As a leader, the most effective (and many would argue, perhaps the only way) you can direct your life and the lives of others is to truly know what you stand for. Your personal values – the way you choose to conduct your self – direct your thoughts, priorities, preferences, and actions. In other words, the aspects of life that you value and place values on, shape your character, which determine how you lead. In essence, your values more than likely determine how you do everything.

Unfortunately, many leaders haven’t identified their values. I find the fact we (in general, people) can live our whole lives without knowing what our ‘key drivers’ are quite perplexing. But I see this all the time with the clients I coach: they often find their roles frustrating, confusing, or unfulfilling. If a leader’s experience can be described this way, imagine what their staff are experiencing. If you find yourself struggling with internal conflicts – that often lead to external consequences – or have a sense of something important missing from your life, assess your values.


Max Klau states in his Harvard Business Review article, Twenty-First Century Leadership: It’s All About Values, that a significant purpose of personal values is to serve a cause greater than yourself. Great leaders have a vision of serving by contributing to a cause where they try not to be the focal point. This requires a set of values based on benefiting others.

Simply put, your values are simply your ideals, the foundational principles that you live by – the way you conduct yourself. They should be the ‘pole bearers’, the important standards, you believe you should govern your body, mind, and spirit. These values should manifest throughout the course of your personal and business life. Generally, people resonate most with a handful of values, each having a great influence on their character – some more dominant in the business arena, and some more dominant in the personal. I suggest to prioritise just a few to prevent losing focus.

Some examples of personal values that leaders have been known to embrace:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Humility
  • Loyalty
  • Serving others

The list is broad. No two leaders will have the same set of core values. They are almost as unique as fingerprints. Your values establish your personal standards for what is right and wrong, acceptable and not acceptable. They are the basis for judging your personal and business progress of growth, your impact on your areas of responsibility, the contributions you’ve made and the satisfaction you receive.

Have you identified your values? How do they shape your leadership?