In interviewing 12 outstanding leaders for my soon-to-be-released book, The Unstoppables – 12 Women Leaders’ Journey to the Top, one lesson kept popping up over and over again: the importance of maintaining integrity by making decisions and taking actions based on one’s values.
Lillain Bauder, one of the 12, exemplifies an outstanding leader who, from an early age, understood her values and leveraged them to achieve great success. Throughout her career she never wavered, always using her values to make right decisions for the right reasons, regardless of the consequences.
From experience in working with thousands of men and women leaders, it’s safe to say that most have not given much thought to their values. Not because they don’t believe in the importance of values, but rather because they’ve not clearly defined them. In truth, a litmus test exists that I’d like to share with you by way of a personal example.
My daughter Lisa was three years old the first time she went Christmas shopping with me at the local mall. The hordes of people, mechanical toy displays, and extra retail booths brought in for the holidays created a noise level that was deafening.
We were in Steketee’s Department Store and I was rifling through a rack of blouses; Lisa at my side. I looked down to say something to her, and she was gone. “NO!” my mind screamed. With my heart racing, I charged the stairs to find the woman working the PA system, my eyes frantically searching the store for my little girl.
The PA woman showed little concern, asked too many questions, and was slow to respond. There was no time to waste. My daughter had to be found now. Racing through the store, propriety aside, I started screaming her name — Lisa! Lisa! In retrospect, I must have looked like a mad woman. But as in childbirth, I didn’t care who saw or heard me. Nothing was as important than finding my daughter.
I hadn’t made it out of the store when I noticed two women hurrying toward me, “Have you lost a little girl?”
“Yes!” I practically screamed. “Her name’s Lisa. She’s wearing a red coat, blue corduroy pants, and Mickey Mouse boots.” My words tumbled out.
“We found her in the middle of the mall, crying. She wouldn’t come with us because she said that her mother told her never to go with strangers, but she was willing to wait at one of the kiosks. Come with us, and we’ll take you to her.”
From a distance I could see Lisa sitting on the counter of the booth, looking scared and tearful. When our eyes met, we dissolved into sobs of relief. Upon reaching the booth, our arms flew around each other, hanging on for dear life as if nothing else mattered. It was crystal clear that my family held top priority – the thing I valued above all else.
Years have passed since that memorable moment, and some of my values have changed, but one thing I have learned. If ever in doubt as to what I value, the litmus test never changes. My values can always be discovered by examining what I chase, the diligence with which I pursue it, and the joy I experience once it is within my grasp.
What do you value? Not sure? Be your own best coach; ask yourself the following questions:
Ask and answer the following questions:
1) What do I value?
2) Where do I spend my time? On what do I spend my money?
3) Am I making decisions and acting in alignment with my priority values?
4) If not, why not? What’s getting in the way?
5) What changes would I need to make in order to act in alignment with what I value most?
Roy Disney wrote, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” Are you making decisions (poular or otherwise) based on your values? Are you living life, taking actions based on them? If you are, you share a character trait with Lillian Bauder and other 11 unstoppable leaders, all women who made it to the top in their organizations.
What evidence do you see of leaders living their values and the difference it makes? I’m certainly open to your comments.