Over the last decade or so, I’ve done quite a bit of coaching with leaders who are preparing to interview for various leadership roles. One of my best pieces of advice to them is to demonstrate congruence in their interview. That is, when they say they have particular values, strengths or abilities, they need to be able to give clear examples of those things and weave them throughout their interview.
Demonstrating congruence is important for leaders at all times, not just in an interview setting. When your actions match your values, it gives people confidence that you lead authentically and act with integrity. Still, demonstrating congruence is not easy. It’s one thing to have the self-awareness to know and communicate your values, but it’s another thing to ensure that your actions always follow your espoused values.
In her chapter on Congruence in the edited book, Leadership for a Better World, Tricia R. Shalka, says “Acting in congruence means you give time and energy to the things you say are important. If you say your family is most important but you choose to work 80 hour weeks and, via technology, are never truly with your family 100%, is that congruent with saying your family is most important? Probably not.”
So how can you ensure that your values and actions are congruent? Here are a few questions for you to ponder:
- What are my core values?
- How do my actions demonstrate my values?
- What actions have I taken recently that are clearly aligned with my values?
- What actions have I taken recently that are not aligned with my values?
- Do I need to change my actions to bring them in line with my espoused values? Or do I need to re-evaluate my values and communicate them honestly to myself and others?
- How can I demonstrate congruence with those I lead?
Last week I was struck with the congruence that Dr. Annette Parker demonstrated while sharing her story of her early career. She started working at a GM plant fresh from high school and only later began her education at a community college, quickly becoming a tutor and then an instructor. Dr. Parker continued her education and rose through her career to become a president of a community and technical college, and now leads collaborative workforce development efforts for the system. Her career has demonstrated the way she values both technical and continuing education for herself and others.
What examples of congruence have you seen in yourself or leaders around you?