“The Leadership Challenge,” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, ranks among the classic resources on leadership principles and practices. Using more than 25 years of evidence-based research, the authors emphasize values as guides for leaders and organizations. They offer a deck of Leadership Challenge Values Cards to help leaders identify their most important values, sharpen their leadership skills and improve team performance.
Review the pack of Leadership Challenge Values Cards imprinted with words such as profitability, teamwork, fairness, honesty, integrity and family. Identify and prioritize personal values by sorting the cards into three stacks from most to least important. Discard the least-important stack and narrow the remaining cards to the top seven most important personal values.
Compare your personal values with the value statement of the company or other group, such as a school board or volunteer firefighting company, in which you have a leadership role. Decide whether the values are congruent and think about ways to close the gap in any differences.
Use the values cards with work teams to generate discussion and create a stronger group spirit. Help the team identify shared values such as quality, timeliness and courtesy and divergent values such as teamwork vs. independence. Use conversation to build relationships, foster team empowerment and elicit ideas for improvement from front-line staff.
Apply the knowledge of values and use it as a source of peace during times of organizational change or challenge. Leaders need to resolve conflict with their personal values in situations such as layoffs, when the company's value of profitability must supersede the manager's empathy for employees.
Live your values at work every day. According to Kouzes and Posner, managers who “model the way” earn credibility and have the greatest influence on the performance of their teams. The authors say effective leaders possess the four most admired traits of honesty, competence, the ability to inspire and a forward-thinking mindset.
As alternatives to printed cards, create lists of values or write them on cards. Remember that each person sets his values differently.
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