Leadership Story | Core Values Drive Leaders

Just received an email from a client this past week: We’ve stayed connected since she first attended an open enrollment leadership course about three and a half years ago. She is an accomplished and talented HR director. She will be leaving her organization very soon. The message wasn’t a surprise and in fact, she should be very proud of her decision.

We had a long phone call a couple months ago. She spoke about the senior leadership team, and how one of them, in a chief marketing role, was seeking a “coaching activity” of some sort. She went further and described the organizational landscape, most notably that the senior leaders often “said the right things,” and even discussed during an executive off-site the need for leadership development training. Sounds like a classical case, where the CEO and CTO are founders of the company, and not surprisingly, struggle with growth and have a hard time letting go of anything.

A couple threads come to mind. 

Tony Hseih of Zappos speaks about living core values, and one of the ways he expresses how this is done is whether we hire or fire based on alignment with our company core values regardless of the ability of the person in question.

We can also go deeper, to Clayton Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Life? Christensen shares a story about building a playhouse for his kids and he realizes that the journey, or the act of building the playhouse was his motivator, rather than the destination, or actual completion of the playhouse. For him, this was a revelation. Let’s pause and think about this for a minute.

There’s a very good chance that my client just had a similar revelation - just like Christensen. In discussions with my client over the years, it’s apparent that she wishes to be part of an organization that lives its values, rather than part of a cult, even a successful one. My guess is that her organization is a completely satisfactory, perhaps even fun place to work. But there are fissures, or stress fractures she and others are beginning to detect. And they are in conflict with both her values and how she wants to measure her life. 

She is courageous, and this ChoinqueCast is my way of telling her so. Indeed she is living her values.

Have you ever been in an organization like this? Or made a decision like my client did this month? Please reach out if you have or if you are thinking about it. Core values drive leaders.