Becoming the Head B*tch in Charge™ means knowing your values

Leadership is a mindset, not a title. Nobody dons you a leader… they might give you a title, but we all know how little titles and leadership actually have to do with each other. Just recently one of our client's shared how excited she was that her company was going to launch a signature collection for the Japanese market as a result of her vision and influence. She didn’t have the authority to “make it so” with the stroke of her pen, but it was her initiative and leadership that brought it to life. Now she gets to have the opportunity of a lifetime to design the collection!

If you want to lead, don’t wait for someone to give you an opportunity; take it.

But where do you start? You must articulate your values.

Huh? You say. What’s values got to do with Leadership?

For this client, one of her deepest, most revered values is functional beauty. She loves to see form and function come together in elegant, innovative ways. The fashion house she works for designs clothing that make sense for European body types, but the form and function of the collections just don’t work for the Japanese physique. For her, it was imperative that she do something different for the Japanese market because she felt like her values were in conflict with reality.

Values are what matter to you.

  • They help you understand who you are by establishing boundaries.
  • They give you clarity and direction: what do you say "yes" or "no" to?

While the focus on the changing workplace dynamics and attention on millennial trends may seem to be a “now” construct, values are not new, and academics have been talking about them in the context of social values since the mid-1900s. According to Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck in 1961, values answer basic existential questions and provide meaning to our lives. They also help individuals work together to achieve a collective good (education, well-being, taxes, etc.).

Today, you’ll most often see people refer to organizational values. Recently, Lyft shared how its company values called for it to commit $1,000,000 to the ACLU. Zappo’s is well known for its values and former CEO Tony Hsieh has spoken often on how those guidelines impacted their culture and business.

I’m a big fan of organizational values. But if you’re a young professional, supporting and living your organization’s values isn’t enough. You need to stand for something too. When you’re in an environment where you’re trying to excel, but you don’t have formal authority, it becomes even more important to be influential and authentic, and having a set of personal values can help you do that.

Your values give you the foundation for everything else you do, because they shine a light on what’s essential. Once you’ve identified and refined your values, you have the secret to your own authenticity.

  • What are your most important values?
  • How is what you’re doing in or out of line with your values?
  • What should you do differently to be in better sync with what matters to you?

By Kara Davidson, co-founder, wolf & heron