Are you a fan of authentic nurse leadership, as I am? These are leaders who embrace self-awareness, moral and ethical courage, caring, relationships, and shared decision-making using Giordano-Mulligan and Eckardt's model. Where do values fit in? Your personal ethics are based on your values. Without knowing them, you won't have the moral and ethical courage you need as a leader.
Ethics and values are on the Harvard Business Review (HBR) short list of the most important leadership competencies. Having high ethical standards is all about behaving consistently with your values. Which begs the question, are you leading with your values? If not, your followers will likely pick up on the disingenuousness, lack confidence in you, and fail to be motivated. Not a recipe for success.
Finding your values is an important starting point. You may have the self-awareness to know what's important to you already. Here are two more ways to make this discovery. Columbia Business School professor Paul Ingram tells his students to imagine a time at work when they were really happy and, on the opposite side, when they were unhappy. Your values are most likely present in the former and lacking in the latter. HBR offers another way to discover whether you're living your values—imagine your eulogy (okay, gruesome, yet effective). Are you hearing what you want to hear?
This is awfully deep stuff, getting to the core of who we are and what we stand for. It may be making things better, mentoring, patient-centeredness, or diversity. For others, it might be creativity, justice, achievement, or family. Knowing what drives you helps you lead better and knowing what drives your staff members helps you support them to be their best.
Your values are your platform, your legacy, and the engine of authenticity. When we act in ways inconsistent with our values, we're uncomfortable and we can even experience moral distress. If organizational culture matches your values, magic happens and engagement soars. If there's a disconnect, you must find a way to marry yourself, your leadership, and your organization's values so that it makes sense to you and your followers. Possible, and not easy.
Leading with your values means sharing them, using them as the “why,” and living them as an example to all. Staying connected to your values is grounding and gives you purpose and strength. We always strive to “do the right thing,” and they guide that right decision. Putting patients first may steer some decisions, employee well-being may direct others. If you're lucky, you can support both at the same time. Explaining what drives your decisions builds your authentic leadership and followership.
Our individual strengths as leaders are strong, most likely because they align with our values. Maybe you aren't so good at finance because of a values disconnect. Or it could be because you were always lousy at math! That's what discovering your values is all about, plus aligning them with your actions. It's the opposite of leading by fear or without integrity.
Ethical and moral courage requires leading with your values. Discover them and keep them alive.