What would you tell your younger self?

I once coached a young leader who was from the East Coast. She told me that her core values included open and direct communication and that her Minnesota team members should just get over their negative reaction to her directness. She said if she changed she wouldn’t be true to herself.  She couldn’t see that modifying her direct communication style wouldn’t be inauthentic – it would help her expand her communication skills.

As I was thinking about this, I saw a blog from Harvard Business Review.  The author said that being authentic to one’s values requires being flexible to other people’s needs and perceptions.

One of my core values is about collaboration. Gathering feedback and insights from others is so important to me that I can have difficulty putting closure on decisions that I really need to make myself. What I see as collaboration might be perceived by others as lack of ownership or responsiveness, which is the opposite of what I’m trying to achieve.

A related core value, which I’m just now beginning to explore, is about creating a safe space for myself and others to work together.  Looking back over my career, I can see many times when this value helped me to be a good leader, team member, and mentor. However, it also led me to be risk-averse in ways that were unconscious and not helpful.  I wish I could talk to my younger self as I tried to talk to the young East Coast leader.  I would tell her to take more risks. Opening up the safe space to allow forgiveness for good attempts that didn’t work – giving myself and others permission to not be perfect – will help me stay true to my values in the long run.

Knowing yourself as a leader means being aware of your core values and consistently acting from that center.  However, there’s an interesting balance between being consistent and being rigid. How have your core values helped you be a better leader?  Have there been times when you could have expressed them more effectively by being more flexible?

Dee Anne Bonebright

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