Bywater Consulting Group, LLC
Liz Bywater, PhD

July 2012

Reflective Leadership: Defining Your Core Values

Great leaders take the time to reflect upon who they are and what they stand for. Do you?

In an era of widespread uncertainty and rapid change, in which world events and individual livelihoods hinge upon the decisions of our corporate and political leaders, it's absolutely vital for leaders to have a solid foundation upon which to operate.

Simply stated, leaders need to know who they are and what they believe.

It's true that, on the surface, leadership appears to be an outwardly directed activity. It's about getting others to buy in, follow your direction, pursue your vision, and collectively help you accomplish things far greater than you could ever achieve on your own.

At its core, however, leadership is an inside job. It requires genuine self-reflection and a keen understanding of who you are and what you stand for.

At Bywater Consulting Group, we believe in living and working according to one's core values. Our own values, beliefs and underlying principles guide us daily in the work we do with our clients, as we help them elicit the best in themselves and the people around them. Here's a glimpse at what we believe:

People can change.

Modest improvements can be achieved quickly. Substantive, sustainable change takes time, focus, practice, persistence and accountability. Support helps too.

People are at the heart of the success or failure of any organization. And the vast majority of people genuinely want to do great work.

Culture matters. Communication matters. Relationships matter.

Trust is foundational.

Organizations require outstanding leadership in order to thrive.


If you haven't set aside the time to look inward and develop insight into your own core values and beliefs, there's no time like the present. Sit down with pen and paper (or iPad, laptop or digital voice recorder) and begin to make some notes about what's important to you. What are the beliefs and principles that influence the decisions you make for and with your team, your department, and your family?

Start by thinking about what's most important to you in each of the following categories:

Leadership. What makes for an effective leader? What are the characteristics and behaviors you admire most in your boss, the head of the company, your community and governmental leaders? Who inspires you, and why? Look below the surface to explore who these people really are. What are the underlying values informing the decisions they make? Then consider your own approach to leadership. Are your daily actions and choices reflective of the deeply held beliefs and values that define you?

Partnership. What are your beliefs about partnership? Do you genuinely believe that effective partnerships are built upon honest and open communication, enduring trust, mutual understanding, and collaborative efforts toward achieving a common goal? Or are your beliefs something other than these, perhaps based upon different training or experiences? In what ways are your beliefs evident in daily interactions with peers and business partners?

Success. What does success mean to you? How does it look for your team, your organization, and your family? What sacrifices are you willing to make in order to be successful? Do you choose to pursue success at all costs? Where do you draw the line?

There's no getting around it. Successful organizations require reflective leaders who possess a keen understanding of their core values. Such leaders know who they are and what they believe. And they act accordingly.

Do you?

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