14 Leadership Core Values

Leadership comes in many shapes and forms, but the one thing that unites all great leaders is that they share a core set of values. To be a leader, you must hold to a belief system that will inspire confidence and trust in those around you. Leadership means working to make a positive difference in the lives of those that you touch, creating a better world both in the present and for future generations.

Respect Yourself and Others

No person has an innate claim to respect from others. No matter who you are or what you do, you must earn respect instead of expecting it.

Many workers claim that mutual respect is one of the most important qualities that they look for in a leader. However, most people value earned respect over owed respect. Unlike owed respect, which includes simple civility and inclusion in the workplace, earned respect stems from ability and accomplishment.

As a leader, it’s important that you show respect to everyone around you, regardless of their personal or professional standing. You should always treat others with dignity and compassion despite any differences in background, character, or other factors. Respect is the foundation of any meaningful relationship, especially in a professional setting.

Before learning to respect others, you must learn to respect yourself. People respond better to a leader who is confident in themselves. Know both your strengths and your limitations, and never let a temporary failure make you doubt yourself.

While many people think that self-respect and confidence are inherent traits in any leader, this isn’t true. With practice, anyone can learn to assert themselves and believe in their abilities. Confidence inspires confidence, especially in those who look to you for guidance.

While self-respect is a crucial trait for any leader, it’s important not to let it give way to hubris. Always show restraint, as overconfidence can give off a negative impression and breed contempt in the workplace.

Follow Your Moral Compass

Many employees don’t trust the integrity of upper management. In fact, over half of workers state that they would trust a stranger more than their own boss. Morality can be rare in the modern world, especially in a business setting.

One thing that sets great leaders apart from the mediocre is their authenticity. By showing consistency in their values, actions, and words, they prove their trustworthiness and earn the respect of those around them.

As a leader, it’s important that you always stay true to yourself and follow your own moral compass. You shouldn’t allow your beliefs to be compromised for anything or anyone. It’s also best to be transparent in your actions. Let those around you know not only what you want to be done but also why. Transparency on your part can lead to more openness and accountability from others in both your professional and personal life.

You should also strive to be honest as a leader. Honesty is the foundation of trust in a relationship, and in this day and age of social media, it’s nearly impossible to keep a secret in the business world. By being open with others, they know that they can rely on you as a leader with integrity.

Ethical decision making isn’t always easy, especially as a leader. You need to show commitment to your moral principles in order to maintain your reputation in the business world. What’s more, you set a standard for others in your field to act in a morally sound manner.

Show Courage

When making the right decision proves a challenge, you need to rely on your strength of self. Taking risks is one of the cornerstones of success for any leader, but it often takes courage to make the leap.

Great leaders strive to do the right thing instead of the easy thing. They take a stand against injustice and work on behalf of the common good, even when it isn’t directly beneficial to themselves. Leaders have the courage to speak up for what’s right, even when it’s not what others want to hear.

Courage doesn’t necessarily mean standing up against adversity without fear. It’s not only natural to be wary of putting yourself or those around you at risk, but helpful. Knowing the potential dangers and rewards or a situation allows you to see it from all angles and make informed decisions.

Instead, courage means doing the right thing even when you know that there’s no guarantee of success. It’s the ability to move past your fear and act in spite of it. As a leader, you need to have the courage it takes to open your mind, broaden your horizons, and acknowledge your shortcomings so that you can work towards becoming a better person.

By showing courage and standing up for what’s right, you set an example that others can follow. You can help to make the world a better place by encouraging others to have the courage to stand up for their own values.

Work Toward the Greater Good

As a leader, you should have more than just a vested interest in yourself. You should also work to better the world around you, from your company to the community as a whole. All leaders have a responsibility to those less fortunate to create a brighter future.

Selflessness is an admirable quality in any person, but people especially respect leaders who show a genuine interest in furthering the greater good. Many successful leaders run initiatives such as youth outreach programs, environmental projects, food drives, and more in an effort to give back to their communities.

For the most part, leaders are expected to provide acts of service without expecting a reward, or sometimes even recognition. Instead, true leaders realize that working toward the greater good is one of the keys to success in both the professional and personal sphere.

You don’t necessarily have to start your own community outreach program to provide a service for your community. Something as simple as volunteering your time at a local nonprofit or charity can help you to give back to those around you and build up your core leadership values. You can also get involved in the local community by:

  • Teaching a free class pertaining to your field
  • Sponsoring an event such as a luncheon or festival
  • Hosting a field trip for the local school at your business
  • Offering a scholarship for local college-bound students
  • Adopting a local highway

Practice Humility

While confidence is a vital trait in any leader, people also respect those who are humble. As a leader, it’s important to be aware of your own faults and limitations. Acknowledge your imperfections, and embrace the fact that you may not always hold all of the answers.

Leaders with humility tend to be more open-minded than others, allowing them to think from other perspectives. You should never outright dismiss another’s guidance or suggestions, regardless of their position relative to your own. Everybody has a unique insight into different issues, and you never know where your next big breakthrough might come from.

No matter how much fame, money, power, or success you might achieve, people will always respond better to your leadership if you stay grounded. Always value your humility, and never let confidence slip into arrogance.

Humility can help to foster a more open culture in your business, encouraging employees to come forward with ideas and concerns without worry about getting shot down by their superiors. People also tend to trust humble individuals more than those who are prone to bragging.

Having humility doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning your ego. You can have self-respect and ambition without being pompous or overconfident. However, you should aim to channel your ambitious side for the good of the company and those around you instead of for personal gain.

Keep an Open Door

Far too often, leaders don’t communicate effectively with those around them. Over 90% of employees feel that their superiors lack the necessary communication skills to run a successful business. Many complain that company leaders don’t give clear directions, don’t offer constructive criticism, or even outright refuse to speak with subordinates.

Open communication is one of the cornerstones of a successful relationship between employees and those in leadership roles. If you want to be an effective leader, you need to be able to speak with others honestly.

You should also know how to be an active listener and take questions and concerns from those around you into account. All great leaders encourage others to speak freely, and instead of rejecting criticism, they use it to become a better person.

When listening, try to be empathetic and put yourself in another’s shoes. Even if they’re telling you something that you don’t want to hear, make sure that you remain friendly and keep a cool head. Empathetic listening helps to build trust and encourages people to be honest and open with you.

Open communication not only helps to forge stronger relationships at home and in the workplace but also drives innovation. It encourages cooperation and leads to happier, more engaged employees.

People are also able to work more effectively if they have a keen understanding of what they’re doing. By being transparent and encouraging others to do the same, you can ensure that everyone is able to perform in peak condition and improve the work output of your team. If anyone doesn’t get their job, they’ll feel comfortable asking for clarification.

Communication doesn’t always have to be verbal. While it’s always good to check in face-to-face, you can also encourage employees to speak to you via email or office memo. Some may feel more comfortable communicating anonymously, or you may want to keep a paper record of your conversations for future reference.

Accept Accountability

Part of being a leader is accepting a greater share of responsibility than others. It can be overwhelming at times to juggle the many duties of managing a team. However, all good leaders know what’s needed of them and strive to live up to these expectations.

You should always accept accountability for the decisions that you make when in a leadership role. People look up to someone who can admit their mistakes and move on from the past with grace. Instead of blaming others for poor business decisions, a good leader will admit that they were at fault.

Accepting accountability is rarely easy, especially in the business world. You could be penalized for your mistakes. However, as a leader, it’s your duty to embrace both the good and the bad. If you make a poor decision, the sooner you admit it, the sooner you can regroup and work towards redeeming yourself.

By accepting accountability, you avoid spending unnecessary time and effort on unproductive behavior and distractions. You also encourage others around you to hold themselves accountable, building trust within your team.

Accountability can also help to increase confidence within your team. In addition to holding people responsible for their mistakes, a good leader also allows people to take credit for a job well done. Everybody likes having their contribution acknowledged.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Even the wisest leaders can make mistakes. What sets them apart from others is how they react to their errors.

Leaders don’t treat their mistakes as a setback, but rather, as an opportunity. They strive to learn from their mistakes and to help others ensure that they don’t make the same error in judgment as well.

As a leader, you should never let mistakes stop you from taking risks. Without risk, there is no reward, especially in the business world. Always remember that you can grow from your experiences, no matter how catastrophic.

You should also impress on others the importance of learning from mistakes. You can tell your story as a cautionary tale and create a safer environment for those around you. Similarly, you can also look at mistakes other leaders have made to learn how to better yourself.

One of the best ways to deal with making mistakes as a leader is to acknowledge your error, often through a heartfelt apology. You should also develop a plan and put a failsafe in place that will help to prevent you from making the same mistake in the future.

Stay Positive

People are drawn to those with positive energy, making optimists good leaders. Optimists can open their mind to new ideas, stay focused on big-picture goals, and deal with setbacks with a smile on their faces.

With a positive outlook, you can motivate just about anybody to improve their performance. Optimists are able to inspire those around them to be better people. Many optimists are also gifted orators, able to bring others to their way of thinking and win support wherever they go.

Optimists also refuse to let slumps in their professional or personal life affect their outlook. By coming into work with a positive attitude each day, even if the outlook is bleak, you can motivate your team to do their best despite facing adversity.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to stay positive, especially under the burdens of a leadership role. Try not to dwell on negative feelings, and know any trigger points to avoid when you start feeling down. Instead, focus on what’s going well in your life.

Your passion for your work can help you to stay positive when you’ve hit a rough patch. Passion is one of the most significant core values that a leader can have when seeking to motivate and inspire themselves and others. Enthusiasm is infectious, and if you’re excited about a project, others will be too.

If you work in a field that you love, it’s easy to be passionate about your work as a leader. You can get others just as excited by involving them in the creative process, taking their input into account, and keeping everybody updated about the status of different projects.

Show Your Appreciation

While many bosses think that money is the main reason for a high turnover rate, many more employees are concerned with their treatment by workplace management. Almost 80% of people who quit their jobs do so because of a lack of appreciation from company leadership.

There are few things that you can do as a leader to inspire people more than simply recognizing their efforts. When it comes to motivation, acknowledgment outranks factors such as pay, training, and other benefits.

Good leaders make an effort to spot hard work in their team. It’s a good idea to spend some time each day observing your employees and looking for those who stand out from the rest. You should give praise often, but make sure that it’s meaningful. Give genuine, specific compliments to those who deserve them.

In addition to praise, you can find other ways of recognizing outstanding work from your team. Many leaders set up a rewards system for motivation and friendly competition amongst coworkers. There are plenty of ways that you can show your appreciation as a leader, including:

  • Office perks, such as getting to wear casual clothing or having an extended lunch break
  • Lunch or dinner with you or with the team
  • “Employee of the Month” benefits, such as a closer parking spot or a plaque in the office
  • Tickets to a local festival, concert, or sporting event
  • A gift card to a restaurant or retail outlet
  • Extra vacation days
  • An employee outing day
  • Company swag

Treat Others Fairly

Though many of us aren’t aware of it, we all hold unconscious biases thanks to our life experiences. As a leader, it’s vital that you don’t let your own feelings get in the way of rational, ethical decision making.

When acting in a leadership role, you have to make a conscious effort to ignore any biases or personal opinions that may sway your decision. For example, when two people are up for the same promotion, it can be tempting to choose the friendlier of the two. However, you should make the decision based on who has better credentials.

Always try to approach problems from an outside perspective. Aim to be impartial, and make your decision based on logic and rationality rather than impulses and emotions. In this way, people will be able to respect your choices as a leader. They’ll know that they can rely on you when there’s a tough decision to be made.

If you treat people fairly, they’ll respond in kind. You’ll find it easier to navigate relationships and earn the trust of those around you. However, being fair doesn’t always mean appeasing all parties.

Occasionally you’ll be forced to reach a compromise, or you’ll have to rule in favor of one person over another. As a leader, you need to be prepared to face anger and irritation even over perfectly fair decisions.

Think Outside the Box

Leaders aren’t cut from the same cloth as other people. Part of what sets them apart is their ability to open their mind. A good leader is always eager to listen and learn, and they treat exploring the world around themselves as a lifelong journey. In fact, over half of public sector leaders rank creativity as more important than qualities such as integrity or influence.

As a leader, you should aim to be an inspiration for those around you. Your creativity and innovation can serve to push others to follow suit and think outside the box. By encouraging the people around you to have open minds, you can create a work team brimming with new ideas.

Creative leaders have a way of motivating others to better themselves. They make us believe that anything is possible and help to break down our views of our own limitations. By embracing your creative side, you can set yourself apart from the crowd and drive others to follow you.

Creativity doesn’t just mean coming up with novel business propositions. Leaders need to be able to think critically, which means using their creative side to tackle problems from a fresh perspective.

You can encourage creativity in the office by promoting the open exchange of ideas. You can organize team-building exercises that make participants use their creativity, arrange a weekly think tank, and allow others to lead the discussion every once in a while.

Exhibit Loyalty

Loyalty works two ways, and you need to give it to receive it. Nobody respects a leader that goes against their word, and it’s a quick way to lose allies in the professional realm. You should aim always to show loyalty to those you work with, including both coworkers and clients.

Showing loyalty as a leader extends beyond simply choosing one supplier over another. It means being consistent and authentic in your interactions, and reciprocating favors with those in your network.

To inspire loyalty, true leaders invest themselves in the professional lives of those in their team. They seek to guide and mentor, helping those underneath them to grow and climb the corporate ladder.

By showing employees how to bring out the best in themselves, good leaders inspire lifelong loyalty. People remember those who have helped them along their path to achieving their dreams and are often more than willing to reciprocate.

Showing loyalty helps to build a foundation of trust within a team. Members know that their coworkers, as well as their leader, has their back. You can help those who look up to you to build their loyalty with team exercises and open group discussions.

Developing Your Core Leadership Values

The core values that you bring to the table as a leader set an important standard for those around you. The best leaders guide by example, bettering the world around themselves while showing others how to do the same.

There are many values that a good leader should demonstrate in order to gain respect in their role. People prefer to follow those who show treat them fairly, giving them due respect and listening to their concerns.

As a leader, you also need to command respect. You should strive to be someone that those around you can look up to, acting with integrity, authenticity, and courage. It takes time and patience to learn how to embody all of the core values of a leader.

It’s always worthwhile to work on building your leadership skills and becoming a better mentor, manager, and guide for those around you. A strong leader can bring success to any business venture by inspiring and motivating other employees.

Employees who believe in the competence of senior leadership tend to be more engaged than their counterparts. Faith in company leaders is more important to most workers than growth and development, pay, and many other factors.

Core leadership values are also vital for personal and professional development. Without a set of values to follow, you’re bound to flounder in life. Defining what you believe in and who you are as a leader can help to guide your journey up the career ladder.

By embracing the most important leadership core values, you can bring success to yourself and your business. It’s never too late to stop being a follower and work toward your dream of becoming a leader.

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