Dollars and Sense: Leaders must understand core values

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The business scandals of recent years [Enron, WorldCom and Healthsouth quickly come to mind], coupled with the seemingly endless list of public company executives caught up in the backdating of stock options [the latest ethical breach] represent another troubling chapter in the business world.

Greed it seems is alive and well in corporate America.

I recently attended a luncheon hosted by an organization that was founded to promote ethics in business. The guest speaker was a senior executive at a Fortune 500 company who spoke about business ethics and &8220;doing the right things.&8221;

Attending this event got me thinking about the whole issue of ethics and how managers can effectively address this issue in the workplace.

Individual behavior [whether ethical or unethical] is motivated first and foremost by our core values.

Loyalty, honestly and commitment to family are examples of values. We develop core values through our formative years and by adulthood, our values are largely set though certain events along life&8217;s path that can cause a shift in some of our values.

Adroit leaders know that they must have a thorough understanding of their own core values in order to effectively lead others.

Start by asking and answering questions like, &8220;Do I know what I want from life?&8221; &8220;Do I understand what really drives me and gives me satisfaction?&8221; &8220;Do my values match well with those of my employer?&8221;

Answering these questions will help you connect with your core values.

Then try this exercise. Write down your 10 values. Reduce that list to your top six values and finally to your top three values. Then rate the degree in which you act in accordance with your top three values.

For example, you may act in accordance with one of your vales 100 percent of the time or maybe only about 50 percent of the time. This exercise yields tremendous insight into the conviction with which your core values actually affect your leadership style and behavior.

Effective leaders possess a genuine understanding of their own core values. Is your understanding where it needs to be?