Your core values are how you define yourself. They are your non-negotiables and deal breakers. Your line in the sand. To be a successful leader, your individual and leadership core values must be absolute and shift rarely, if ever. Only after some deep self-reflection and/or guidance, will you be ready to commit to any core value. Your individual core values are the essence of who you are: mind, body, and soul.
If you are sitting there thinking, I would like to be this way or I think it would be better if I held these values, stop right there. You are “shoulding” yourself. You are convincing yourself you should be a certain way either because you think that’s what someone in your position should be like or others around you have convinced you that you should be valuing specific things.
That is not the point of this exercise. For this to work, you have to be honest. Forget what Sally and Jim Perfect are doing. Who are you? Truly. If you spend your life constantly working on someone else’s strengths, you will never grow. You’ll just grind yourself into the ground.
First, what is a personal true north? Your personal true north is what you not only pride yourself in but what you look for in others. It is what you gravitate towards without really thinking about it. It’s the path you follow even when you don’t have a map.
To find out your core values, ask yourself, or for those of you that work better in a team bring in someone to help, the following questions:
- What is my true north?
- What makes me unique?
- What is my deal breaker?
I spent a long time considering and answered the questions like this:
- What is my true north? Integrity
- What makes me unique? Authenticity
- What is my deal breaker? Dishonesty
Mine are succinct and to the point, yours may be a bit broader and wordy. They are your values after all.
When I was trying to nail down my core values, as someone who is very career and achievement driven, I was a little surprised to realize that neither power nor money was in my core values. But ultimately, I love working and innovating with clients and partners and it isn’t really the career progression or money that motivates me. It is the people that I work with and the amazing minds that come together that gets me up in the morning excited to work. If money was no object and I could do whatever I wanted, I would still be right where I am.
Staying on Your Core Value Path
Once you have your core values, the hard work begins. Now that you know what matters to you, you don’t have an excuse to compromise on them! Make a conscious effort to reevaluate your life, all facets of it not just work, and see if you are keeping true to your core values. The best way to do this is to let the people you interact with on a regular basis know. Let them know the things you value and your deal breakers. Communicate it out to your friends, family, colleagues, etc. and have them hold you accountable if they see you straying. And if those around you don’t support you, then perhaps it’s time to read about how to recognize and deal with toxic relationships.
Your Core Values and You
Ultimately, individual core values are here to help you. They are here to help you be a happier and more productive person, in and out of work. By knowing what matters to you, you will be more confident in the decisions you make and understand where, how, and with whom you want to spend your time.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson