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Leading with Authenticity: Why Values Alignment Matters Most

Why Core Values Alignment Matters Most

What is it?

Personal values are the core principles or standards that guide your behaviour, choices and judgments. They represent what a person considers most important in life, shaping priorities, preferences and sense of right and wrong. These deeply held beliefs influence decision-making, especially in situations that involve ethical considerations or trade-offs. Examples of personal values include honesty, compassion, independence, creativity and family. Unlike fleeting interests or situational preferences, values are enduring aspects of your identity that remain relatively stable over time.

Values alignment is the degree to which your core principles match those of another person, group or organisation. In a work setting, this means an employee's personal beliefs and standards are in harmony with those of their colleagues, leaders and the company itself. High alignment leads to better cooperation, job satisfaction, and commitment. Misalignment, in contrast, is like rowing against the current. You exert more effort for less progress, which often results in conflict, stress and disengagement.

Imagine you're on a road trip with friends. You all agree on the destination – Cornwall - but you have different ideas about the journey. You value scenic routes with BnBs. Your friend prioritises speed and efficiency. Another insists on luxury hotels. Despite the shared end goal, misaligned values can lead to frustration, arguments and a less enjoyable trip.

This is values alignment in a nutshell. It's the degree to which your core beliefs match those of others. In our road trip analogy, high alignment would mean everyone appreciates taking the scenic route over fast motorways and therefore harmony in how you pursue the goal together.

Why is it important?

In professional life, values alignment is equally crucial:

  • With Yourself: First, your actions should align with your own values. If you believe in work-life balance but consistently work 80-hour weeks, that's misalignment. It often leads to stress, burnout, or a nagging sense that something's off.

  • With Your Team: In projects, misaligned values can derail progress. If you value innovation but your teammates prioritise tradition, collaboration becomes a tug-of-war rather than a dance.

  • With Leadership: When your values match your leader's, work feels purposeful. A leader who champions sustainability will inspire you if that's your core value. But if they seem to value profits at any cost, you'll likely feel unmotivated or even ethically conflicted.

  • With the Organisation: Companies aren't just profit machines; they have values too. Marks & Spencer values ethical trading and environmental sustainability. Nationwide Building Society believes in “being open, honest, and fair”. When you align with your company's values, you don't just work there - you belong there. This alignment boosts job satisfaction, performance, and longevity.

When you're in a leadership role, knowing and aligning with your own values is especially important.

  • Authentic Leadership: When you lead in accordance with your core values, you exhibit authenticity. This genuine approach makes you more relatable and inspiring, as people are drawn to leaders who have a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for.

  • Consistent Decision-Making: Values serve as your internal compass, guiding you through complex choices. For instance, if fairness is a core value, you'll consistently make decisions that uphold equity, even when it's challenging. This consistency builds trust and predictability.

  • Cultural Influence: As a leader, your values significantly shape organisational culture. They become the unspoken norms that guide your team's behaviour. If you genuinely value collaboration, your team is more likely to share information and support each other.

  • Crisis Resilience: In turbulent times - be it an economic downturn or PR disaster - your values provide stability. They remind you of what's truly important, helping you remain grounded and respond with clarity and purpose when others may feel lost.

  • Inspiring Future Leaders: Your leadership legacy isn't just about profits; it's about the principles you uphold. Think of admired leaders like David Attenborough or James Dyson. Their lasting impact is defined by the values they consistently embody —environmental stewardship and relentless innovation, respectively.

Values alignment can be the difference between a work life that energises you and one that drains you. As a leader, it can have tangible, far-reaching effects on your leadership effectiveness and legacy.

For you to answer:

How do you build, grow, learn, and develop it? What gets in the way?


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