Values Based Leadership: It’s NOT About You

GEN Shelton emphasizes that all values based leaders have an obligation to give back. It doesn’t matter whether you are a student or a working professional, you have an obligation to work to make your corner of the world a better place.  He urges us to “be bigger than ourselves, to give back to our community, and to our state, and even to our nation.” He reminds us that there are multiple opportunities to do this in small and large ways.  Corporations and nonprofits mutually benefit from these partnerships.  Corporations reputations are enhanced by their corporate giving back to the community. Nonprofits, by their very existence, are known for their mission-driven programs to the community.

One of our signature programs at the Shelton Leadership Center is the Shelton Challenge.  The Shelton Challenge has selfless service  as a key program component .  Our Shelton Scholars  volunteer twice a year (in addition to their other volunteer efforts), to go to a particular town for a Weekend of Service, where they partner with local civic organizations to build handicap ramps, clean up a blighted area, or help in other ways. We partner with NC State’s CSLEPS to support them in their student service learning and leadership efforts. I’ve been in awe of high school students who volunteer to help those with disabilities in and out of school.

I’m not highlighting these to boast about different Shelton programs are doing  (although I am incredibly humbled and impressed with our tireless staff , students, our Board, and the many students who are a part of the Shelton Leadership Center and how each lives out this cornerstone daily ).  I’m emphasizing that there are lots of ways to give and give back in a community.  As GEN Shelton prompts us, “…that is a part of what each and every one of us from the corporate level right down to the individual should be doing.”

Values based leadership-It’s not about you.

 What situations have you found where giving back to the community gives you an even greater gift?

Should You Lower Your Standards?

GEN Shelton notes in his book, Without Hesitation (p 112), that “an effective leader is not a hands on micro-manager; in fact the freer reign you give your people, the more they will excel-as long as you’ve communicated your objectives and expectations, and surround yourself with good, independent thinkers who are not afraid to speak up.”  He’s talking about how a values based leader has high standards. The values based leader always strives to do what is right.  Yet, he also discusses that a values based leader mixes in generous dose of compassion with the standards.

“You have to understand that for a certain reason,  individuals might have certain things they are wrestling with in life.  For example, you may be on a school bus riding to school and the person next to you is having a bad day.  For whatever the reason, they’re not their self.  But you’ve got a compassion for them because you recognize that something is going wrong. When you have someone who has had a tragedy in their family, you recognize that you know they’re a great employee, but they’re not having their best day or their best week because of this tragedy. ”

The lesson for me is that you don’t lower your standards. You expect everybody to do their best and achieve their personal and organizational goals.  You do recognize, however, that you have to get to know the members of your team, to know what is going on with them to the extent that you and the other person feel comfortable sharing. That knowledge helps you to understand how much they have on their plate and whether you need to adjust and give some additional time, if possible, to help them reach their 100% goal accomplishment for themselves and for the organization.  That’s compassion.

 Where have you seen a values based leader keep the standard high while simultaneously demonstrating compassion?

Does Your Team Look Just Like You?

GEN Shelton views leading with diversity as a great attribute for values based leaders. When we listen to GEN Shelton talk about his strong belief in diversity, we come to understand that he views diversity in a much broader sense than what is traditionally viewed. He talks frequently about how the differences in people-different qualities, attributes, and perspectives bring a much better solution than having an internal echo chamber where everybody is alike.

He notes that there are multiple differences  (for example-age, education, ethnic background, nationality, gender, work history, and perspectives) that we need to embrace and bring to the table to identify the challenge or opportunity and come up with the best solution.  GEN Shelton likens this to his work as the 14th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He notes that “…the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force are all different. They have their own different cultures and ways of doing things, yet they come together to create the greatest fighting force in the world.”     He’s also seen that on his work with corporate boards, where an effective board comes from different perspectives to help the organization continue to move forward. Each board member’s diverse expertise is tapped to help shape the direction of the organization.

One key point I take away from GEN Shelton’s ideas on diversity is that a key role of a values based leader is to, as he states,  “merge and meld the talents and complimentary capabilities of people from a diverse point of view”. When we do that, we grow a much stronger, capable, and nimble team than we would if we only selected and worked with people who were just like us.  I’ve learned and re-learned that a key function of a leader is taking the time to bring people in from different points of view and backgrounds and then listen.   In many cases, it’s difficult, precisely because we’ve thought through the idea and have a point of view.  Yet, even though it is difficult, the decision is, in many instances, much better than if you have everybody who is just like you weighing in on the decision.

An analogy I’ve picked up is the idea of a of the leader needing to serve as a host or hostess at a large party. The host or hostess finds to first learn each guest’s interests and backgrounds are, then connecting them with other people to create an interesting conversation.  Similarly, I think a values based leader needs to consciously and continuously look for ways to connect and bring people together from different backgrounds and interests to solve large and complex challenges and opportunities that cross the organization.

Where have you seen diversity work as a strength in your personal or professional work?

Is Your Leadership Foundation Cracked?

GEN. Shelton asserts that integrity is the  foundation for a good values based leader.   He makes the point that if a person does not have integrity, a person does not have strong moral character. You will not be able to count on a person without integrity. Conversely a person who does have strong moral character and integrity is someone that you can trust implicitly. In his words, “…their word is their bond. You don’t have to worry about a person with integrity if they tell you they’re going to commit to do something, they will do it.  If I tell you I’m going to do something, You know that I’m going to do it if at all possible, the best leaders who’ve had forged leadership in the crucible of combat go all the way to say they will do it even if it costs me my life. I’m going to go out and do what I promised you that I would do.”

Additionally, GEN Shelton notes that we end up disassociating ourselves from a person who lacks integrity  because we don’t want our integrity to be tarnished.  The challenges of integrity go back throughout recorded history of time. It’s evident in many books with the Old Testament.  It is the subject of many writings in the classical Humanities studies.  We see it today in the headlines from multiple professions where the headlines trumpet individuals who have not led with integrity.

As noted in the post on Honesty, integrity is based on a series of decisions you and I make that are analyzed and cataloged by those we lead and those we are led by.   When you lead with integrity, you also bring others to you who share your same values and it becomes reinforcing spiral of goodness. Luckily, however, the more that you associate with people who have a great deal of integrity, it inspires you to be continue to act in a similar vein.

What situations have you found where you completely trusted an individual because of that person’s integrity?

How Can Stopping in the Desert Make You a More Trusted Leader?

GEN Shelton defines a leader who leads with honesty as a person who is “…always going to recognize the difference between right and wrong. You can count on that leader to make a decision based on doing what is right. Honesty and doing the right thing leads to trust in a leader.”

It also leads to trust from your manager or board that you will do what is right without having to check on you frequently.  That concept of trust and honesty help accelerate action and focus on your stakeholders and mission, not whether others are doing the right or wrong thing.

GEN Shelton gives an example about leading with honesty. He discusses that honesty crops up in multiple seemingly small decisions that you make on a daily basis.  He talks about going through the Arizona desert and coming to a stop sign.  Do you stop, even though you see that there is nobody coming from any of the other three directions? If you’re honest, you come to that full and complete stop because it is the right thing to do.  You don’t have to think about it, you just do it. Honesty and trust go hand in hand.

Leading with honesty means doing the right thing all the time even when nobody is looking.  These values, like honesty, are like a part of leadership “fitness”. Psychologists talk about muscle memory and how repeating the same things over and over in practice make it an unconscious positive act when the actual event takes place.  I believe the same holds true with values based leadership fitness.  You make decisions (repetitions) in seeming small ways so that when a situation comes up, you automatically know what to do and simply do what you’ve practiced (ethical leadership muscle memory). As leaders, we are always being watched.  You lead with honesty on a daily basis. Others pick up on what you do and how you act, and they begin to act toward you with increasing or decreasing trust, depending on your actions.

GEN Shelton also recognizes that if you are an honest person, you also recognize that honest people can make a mistake. He talks about underwriting mistakes. If you make a mistake for the right reason and it’s an honest mistake you’re willing to underwrite or forgive that mistake. You underwrite it and move on. But if you’re don’t have a reputation for honesty, others look toward you with a much more skeptical eye.  If others think that you make a decision for the wrong reason, you are unwilling to underwrite or forgive that person.

Where have you found leading with honesty in seemingly small situations translate to that same honest behavior in more significant decisions?