Values-based Leadership

Standing in the Stream

I had a great experience when my friend invited me to go fly-fishing for the first time.  I put on my hip-waders and after his help in getting the fly-rod ready, we headed into a beautiful stream in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Right away I noticed that there were places in the stream where it was difficult to stand – deeper waters, places where it moved a little too fast.  And I learned that it’s important to stay still, wherever you stand, because you need to become part of the stream so the fish will come to you and you are ready to act.

In living my values, I’ve found some of the very same truth.  I must learn to stand firm on my values, living up to them in every circumstance, otherwise I do not feel I am authentic.  I’ve also learned that this is a process, and it’s progress, not perfection; and that I have to keep this in mind when I fail to do it.  Sometimes the water just gets a little too deep or fast and I lose my footing.

When I recall the really great people with leadership skills who have been part of my life, I see people who live their values well by the example they set in their actions, words and thoughts.  They are internally driven to make choices that reflect their values, rather than protecting themselves.   They also have had a focus on what others need and bring that as a consideration in how they interact with others.  And then, they keep themselves open, vigilant and ready to deal with whatever is coming.

In developing my own leadership skills and style, I have found that the following values serve me very well.  Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list, but perhaps enough to give you an idea of who I am striving to be.

  • Communicate in a way that appreciates and respects others’ points of view.   This means I need to be authentic – honest and open – about what I think and feel, but that I can also consider the possibility that I might be wrong.  I find that asking the right questions will often lead to deeper conversations that engage the truth of the situation, even when the questions are a bit uncomfortable.  Communicating with “curiosity in mind” is a way that I can appreciate learning what others are thinking and creating a place where we might learn from each other.  When I listen closely to another person, I learn a lot about them from tone of voice, posture, eye position and facial expression.  When I listen compassionately to another person, I hear what the heart wants to say — I get a little deeper to the root of the issues and the potential polarities of the situation, usually bringing us farther, faster.
  • Courageously act to help others, without regard for personal limits.  This means standing up for what I believe to be the right actions.  For example, I recall quite a few situations where I could have let someone else be blamed for my mistake, but didn’t; or where I saw or heard  inappropriate actions and remarks made, and took action.  I also recall a few of these where I let myself (and the other person) down, and deeply regretted it.  I find all of these occasions – both the successful and the not so successful – to be opportunities for self-reflection on my actions and a good basis for learning and progress.
  • Contribute value to wherever I apply my attention.   Understanding what’s important for the person or group I am interacting with is founded on good communication and insight into the topic or area of work.  Gaining that understanding and adapting what I know or do for them is one of the important ways I strive to to contribute to conversations and team effort. Since I have a wide range of skills, I can often help with advice, demonstrating or teaching, and also by offering to help by applying my skills to what needs attention.  This concept requires me to be fully engaged and present with whatever I am doing, so that I respect the time and effort of everyone else, and of course, make best use of my own time.

– Doug Lowe, 2016