Everyone knows that there are three basic leadership styles: authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire. All of them describe a specific approach to managing a team of people as well as some core values that influence the way these people are led.
Nevertheless, all three leadership types can hardly be named universal as every leader, willingly or not, incorporates their personal values in the way they run a team.
And it’s far more common than you’d think.
In 2017, a team of researchers put up a study on the influence of personal values on leadership strategies that was published in the Journal of General Management. The study investigated several seasoned executives and how they enacted their personal values in organisational decision-making.
While you may expect CEOs to be objective in decision-making, it’s far from what the reality is. The study has shown that in all cases investigated, job-related decision-making mirrored personal values and orientations. Moreover, leadership strategies varied according to personal values of each executive.
As you can see, your personal values will unavoidably influence the way you approach leadership. However, incorporating your personal values in your leadership legacy is not something you should avoid.
On the contrary, this makes your leadership style more refined, sophisticated and helps you stand out as a good manager and leader.
But how do you transfer your personal values to the workplace, so that they work in alliance with the company’s values and benefit your leadership legacy? Let’s take a look.
Defining your personal values
The influence of your personal values on your leadership style as well as the ways they will be incorporated depends on how well you know them and how they impact your decision-making.
Understanding your personal values is crucial, and here’s why. The influential theory of leadership claims that any leadership style is based on four major dimensions:
- managerial, and;
The personal dimension is considered to be the core dimension that influences the way the other three components evolve. Value system and personal inclinations are considered to be the driving forces that influence a manager’s leadership style. Thus, knowing what your personal values are is crucial to understanding your leadership style, as they serve as the foundation of it.
Defining your personal values to understand your leadership style is a must-do exercise that can be done in the following way:
Step #1: Answering the following questions in detail
- What are my biggest accomplishments?
- What are the instances when your performance was the most efficient?
- What principles have driven you when you achieved your accomplishments and worked the most effectively?
Taking a deeper look at your past performances will help you understand what has driven you during the times you were the most effective and successful as a leader.
Step #2: Analysing the failures
- What are the instances of your biggest failures?
- What are the times when you were the most inefficient?
- How did you feel when you failed and what lessons did the failures teach you?
Failures teach us valuable lessons. Appreciation of these lessons is a great character trait that is also your personal value as a leader. Understanding the possibility of failure and possible outcomes can help you become a good crisis manager, which is a trait that many leaders lack.
Step #3: Putting your values together
This step should include a bulleted list of values that came out of the analysis during the previous steps. This list includes a short description of each value and how it influences your leadership style.
Following this pattern will help you to better understand yourself as a leader and allow you to put your personal values in alliance with the corporate culture and values of the company.
Coherence between personal values and corporate values
When you already defined your personal values and know how they influence your leadership style, it’s time to put them to the test and see how well they coincide with the corporate values.
“If you’re a seasoned executive”, says Martin Kelly, the head of HR at the international translation company The Word Point, “you are expected to run the company according to your own vision. However, it is extremely important not to undermine the company’s core values, so that it continued developing and became successful.”
So, as you can see, it’s quite a pickle. On the one hand, you have to obey the corporate values, but on the other hand, you have to stay true to yours.
A good executive is always honest and straightforward about their personal values. If the founders see such executive as fit for their company, it’s a done deal. And you, as a potential leader, should be able to show, how your personal values and traits can help a company succeed.
Let’s take a look at some examples
Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Airways, has always been an opportunist. This is his personal value and his character trait that actually brought him to success. Everyone knows him as a successful entrepreneur, but only a few people know that taking on a risky opportunity helped him build one of the successful companies that ever existed.
When his plane got delayed, he called a private charter company and on a sheet of paper wrote “$39 one-way ticket to the British Virgin Islands”. All the people, who were waiting, accepted his offer, and within minutes, the private charter plane was full.
That’s how his most famous company was born, and since then he learned how to embrace every opportunity to build a successful business. This is how the personal value of a leader becomes a part of corporate culture.
Mark G. Parker, the 62-year-old CEO of Nike, who’s been running the company since 2006, has been named the most involved CEO in the history. Mark started working for Nike as a footwear designer, and personal values that he acquired at this job, continue to influence the way he now runs the company.
He says he prefers to participate in every part of different company ventures, helping his subordinated and “editing and amplifying” the strategies on the go. However, he says he doesn’t believe in micromanaging, encouraging the talent of his employees. Thus, he was able to outrun the competitors like Adidas and Puma, bringing Nike to success it is today.
The conflict between personal values and corporate values
Leadership by the book doesn’t exist. Although most of your personal values may align with corporate values, there can be instances when you’ll find yourself in conflict with what the company stands for.
If you find yourself in the situation, when your personal values (the core of your leadership style) collide with the core values of the company, you will need to find a way to resolve it. Robert Ferguson, a consulting specialist, offers several ways to cope with the conflict of values, namely:
Addressing the conflict
Although you might be reluctant to do so, directly addressing the conflict may be the fastest way to resolve it. If there are no serious issues involved, the solution can be found faster and easier, satisfying both you and other company leaders.
Negotiating the conflict
If more complicated issues are involved, conflict resolution may take some time. If such a situation occurs, stay true to your values but also make an effort to understand the other parties of the conflict. It can happen that both parties of the conflict may suffer some losses, but your task is to minimise them.
Mediating through the conflict
If there are significant complications connected to the conflict of values, you might need a mediator who will help you and the other party get through this situation. Your task is to be willing to resolve the conflict for the sake of the company’s success.
Following one of these three strategies can help you rectify possible discrepancies in order to both preserve the company’s welfare and your leadership legacy.
Robert Ferguson says that there’s an option of ignoring the conflict, but he recommends to avoid this strategy unless the conflict is insignificant. In other cases, you should be able to find ways to resolve the conflict of values in order to respect the corporate values and stay true to your leadership style.
The influence of personal values on your leadership style is unavoidable, but it doesn’t need to be suppressed. Your personal values make you who you are as a leader and create your unique leadership legacy.
Hopefully, our guide will help you better understand how personal values impact your leadership style, and how you can benefit from them in order to run your company successfully.
About the Author
Pauline speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian. She travelled the world to immerse herself in the new cultures and learn languages. Today she is proud to be a voting member of the American Translators Association and an active participant of the Leadership Council of its Portuguese Language Division.