learning & change

Working with Personal Values in Developing a Leadership Perspective

Effective leadership goes beyond technical skills and expertise; it requires a deep connection to one’s core values. Values-driven leadership fosters authenticity, resilience, and trustworthiness, essential for leading effectively. This article explores the importance of working with personal values through four key actions: distilling values, committing to valued actions, developing mindful awareness, and building flexibility.


Understanding Values vs. Goals

Values are fundamental beliefs that guide our actions and decisions. These convictions are deeply personal and can vary greatly from person to person. Another definition of values is, as chosen life directions that reflect what is most important to us. They are ongoing, dynamic principles that provide a sense of purpose and meaning. Unlike goals, which are specific, achievable outcomes, values are about the direction in which we want to move throughout our lives. For instance, while a goal might be to complete a project by a certain deadline, a value might be to embody integrity and excellence in work.

See the end of this post for a list of values to prompt your thinking.

1. Distil Your Values

The first step in values-driven leadership is identifying and clarifying your core values:

  • Sort Your Values: Reflect on what principles are essential for you to live a fulfilling life. Make a long list or work with a sample pack of value statements. Sort them into three categories: values that matter most, matter somewhat and matter least. To help consider:
    • Is this who I am at my best?
    • Do I use it as a filter to make hard decisions?
    • Does it reflect who I am at my core?
    • Is it essential for me to live a fulfilling life?
  • Rank Your Values: Prioritise these values to understand which are most important to you. This ranking helps guide your actions and decisions, ensuring they align with your deepest beliefs.

This process acts as a compass, providing direction in complex and challenging leadership situations.


2. Commit to Valued Actions

Identifying values is only the beginning; the next step is to translate these values into concrete actions:

  • Set Goals Aligned with Values: Develop specific, actionable goals that reflect your values in action. Think about how you might create the conditions for living more in line with your values. For example, if you value innovation, set goals that encourage creative problem-solving within your team.
  • Persistent Effort: Commitment requires persistence, especially when faced with obstacles. Embrace the challenges that come with pursuing your values-driven goals, as these efforts build resilience and authenticity. Build in ways to keep yourself accountable for your actions. Recognise that competing priorities will emerge and unhelpful thoughts and feelings will show up to pull you away from some of your plans.

Committing to valued actions ensures that your leadership is consistent and purpose-driven.


3. Develop Mindful Awareness

Mindful awareness involves being present and attentive to your inner experiences, particularly the thoughts and emotions that may hinder values-based actions:

  • Notice Inner Dialogue: Observe your internal dialogue without judgment. Recognise thoughts and feelings that might discourage you from acting according to your values, such as self-doubt or fear of failure. The idea is that if you can create some space between the thought and you as the observer, you are less likely to get unhelpfully hooked and dragged away from your values-based action.
  • Mindful Practice: Incorporate mindfulness practices, such as meditation or journaling, to enhance your awareness and acceptance of these internal experiences. This awareness helps you stay committed to your values despite internal resistance. Being able to distinguish a legitimate, constructive thought from a reactive /defensive and unhelpful ‘auto-pilot’ script, takes ongoing practice.

Developing mindful awareness allows you to navigate internal obstacles and remain aligned with your values.


4. Build Flexibility

While it’s essential to have a strong connection with your values, it’s equally important to hold them lightly:

  • Regular Review: Periodically review your values to ensure they still align with your current life circumstances and leadership context. Life changes, and so should your understanding and application of your values.
  • Adapt for Workability: Be willing to adapt your values and the actions associated with them. When you notice that your values or the behaviours you associate with them are not supporting you in a sustainable manner, be open to change. This isn’t about letting go of things that matter. Rather, it is about adapting your ways of thinking to give you more positive options for living a values-based life. This flexibility ensures that your values are workable over time and that they continue to serve you positively.

Adapting for workability allows leaders to maintain authenticity while being responsive to change.


Integrating personal values into leadership development creates a strong foundation for authentic and effective leadership. By distilling your values, committing to valued actions, developing mindful awareness, and building flexibility you can cultivate a leadership perspective that is resilient, trustworthy, and deeply fulfilling. This approach not only enhances personal growth but also inspires and empowers those you lead, fostering a more engaged and motivated team.

Here is a list of values to spark your thinking:

Cluster 1: Personal Attributes

  • Authenticity (Genuineness, Realness, Truthfulness)
  • Courage (Bravery, Fearlessness, Fortitude)
  • Humility (Modesty, Meekness, Unpretentiousness)
  • Integrity (Honour, Rectitude, Uprightness)
  • Self-awareness (Consciousness, Self-examination, Self-observation)
  • Self-care (Self-nurturing, Self-pampering, Self-attentiveness)
  • Self-control (Discipline, Restraint, Self-discipline)
  • Self-development (Personal Growth, Self-improvement, Progress)
  • Self-respect (Self-esteem, Dignity, Self-regard)
  • Self-reflection (Introspection, Self-analysis, Self-evaluation)

Cluster 2: Positive Relationships

  • Compassion (Empathy, Kindness, Mercy)
  • Friendship (Companionship, Camaraderie, Fellowship)
  • Kindness (Benevolence, Compassion, Gentleness)
  • Love (Affection, Adoration, Devotion)
  • Loyalty (Devotion, Faithfulness, Allegiance)
  • Supportiveness (Helpfulness, Assistance, Encouragement)
  • Forgiveness (Pardon, Absolution, Reconciliation)
  • Gratitude (Appreciation, Thankfulness, Acknowledgment)
  • Trust (Reliance, Confidence, Trustworthiness)
  • Respect (Admiration, Esteem, Regard)

Cluster 3: Inner Harmony and Well-being

  • Balance (Equilibrium, Harmony, Stability)
  • Happiness (Joy, Contentment, Bliss)
  • Inner Peace (Tranquillity, Serenity, Calm)
  • Mindfulness (Awareness, Presence, Consciousness)
  • Patience (Forbearance, Tolerance, Endurance)
  • Pleasure (Enjoyment, Delight, Gratification)
  • Spirituality (Religiousness, Faith, Belief)
  • Skilfulness (Expertise, Proficiency, Skill)
  • Health (Well-being, Fitness, Wellness)
  • Contentment (Satisfaction, Fulfillment, Gratification)

Cluster 4: Positive Attitudes and Growth

  • Achievement (Success, Accomplishment, Attainment)
  • Curiosity (Inquisitiveness, Wonder, Interest)
  • Encouragement (Support, Reinforcement, Motivation)
  • Learning (Education, Knowledge Acquisition, Study)
  • Growth (Development, Advancement, Progress)
  • Openness (Transparency, Candidness, Receptivity)
  • Open-mindedness (Receptiveness, Flexibility, Tolerance)
  • Optimism (Positivity, Hopefulness, Confidence)
  • Responsibility (Accountability, Duty, Obligation)
  • Innovation (Creativity, Originality, Novelty)

Cluster 5: Integrity and Honesty

  • Authenticity (Genuineness, Realness, Truthfulness)
  • Fairness (Equity, Justice, Impartiality)
  • Honesty (Integrity, Sincerity, Truthfulness)
  • Integrity (Honour, Rectitude, Wholeness)
  • Justice (Fairness, Equity, Righteousness)
  • Trustworthiness (Reliability, Dependability, Credibility)
  • Accountability (Responsibility, Answerability, Liability)
  • Transparency (Openness, Clarity, Lucidity)
  • Sincerity (Honesty, Truthfulness, Genuineness)
  • Equity (Fairness, Impartiality, Equality)

Cluster 6: Community and Citizenship

  • Citizenship (Community Membership, Civil Responsibility)
  • Community (Society, Neighbourhood, Public)
  • Contribution (Participation, Involvement, Giving)
  • Cooperation (Collaboration, Partnership, Synergy)
  • Equality (Equity, Fairness, Parity)
  • Reciprocity (Mutuality, Give-and-take, Exchange)
  • Inclusivity (Diversity, Open-mindedness, Acceptance)
  • Solidarity (Unity, Togetherness, Support)
  • Service (Assistance, Aid, Help)
  • Diversity (Variety, Multiformity, Heterogeneity)

Cluster 7: Adventure and Fun

  • Adventure (Exploration, Excitement, Thrill)
  • Excitement (Thrill, Stimulation, Exhilaration)
  • Fun (Enjoyment, Amusement, Pleasure)
  • Fun-loving (Playful, Enjoyable, Merry)
  • Humour (Comedy, Wit, Jocularity)
  • Novelty (Freshness, Uniqueness, Originality)
  • Thrill (Excitement, Adrenaline, Elation)
  • Playfulness (Light-heartedness, Joviality, Frolic)
  • Exploration (Discovery, Investigation, Survey)
  • Enjoyment (Pleasure, Delight, Satisfaction)

Photo by Mediamodifier on Unsplash










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