Leading Integrity

I have often thought the best way to define a man’s character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it comes upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensely active and alive. At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says: ”This is the real me!”

- William James

What makes you feel alive?

The answer to that one simple question is a huge step toward discovering your core values and your authentic leadership.

This past weekend I shared my leadership core values with one of my closest friends, Doug Crandall. I’ve known Doug for half my life—we were roommates at West Point, peers in the Army, and currently work side by side on the team that delivers Walmart‘s groundbreaking Leadership Academy.

Yet in all those years—all the discussions, debates, experiences, successes and failures we’ve shared—that was the first time I ever shared my core values as a leader.

This surprised me, because I believe (along with Doug) that core values are critical to establishing and living out your identity as a leader. They form and inform the kind of leader you are. Failed leadership can often be traced back to a dissonance between what a leader values (or says he values) and what he actually does.

So, I’ve decided to share my core leadership values with you—the things that make me feel most alive. But first, a few disclaimers:

  • This isn’t a didactic exercise—these values aren’t offered as the “approved solution”
  • I don’t think you can have 50 core values, or even 10 for that matter. 3-5 seems right to me
  • Values are alive. These are mine today—the result of my choices & experiences to this point

My core values as a leader:

1. Freedom. My purpose is to free people & organizations to be their best.

2. Service. My leadership is an offering and a responsibility—not a right or a privilege.

3. Trust. I’m most effective when I trust myself and earn the trust of others.

That’s my list. As it stands right now, it’s just words. I find the only way values come alive for me is with stories. So I’ll spend my next few blog posts sharing stories that I hope will help you understand my take on these three words.

Consider this list my ante. Now it’s your turn…

What are your core values as a leader—what makes you feel alive?