Credibility is the soul of leadership.
Credibility comes a root word that also gives us creed and credit; it means believe. When you have credibility you have it because others believe you.
Leaders have credibility with their constituents not only because they don’t lie to them, but because their actions are credible. A leader of integrity consistently takes actions that demonstrates a commitment to clear values.
Constituents respond to a leader’s embodiment of his or her values. When a leader takes a principled stand, acts in accord with her values –– especially when that causes strife, extracts a cost, or inflicts pain to the leader –– that’s when the leader signals her true colors. That’s when the led know what the leader really stands for. And are inspired.
Do You Value Your Values?
So how do you know if you truly value what you say you value?
Here are 10 ways to find out. Honestly answer these ten probing questions that test the strength of your values in action:
1. How much do you prize and cherish your declared value? (Also thought of as a priority, preference, or position.)
2. How have you publicly affirmed your value (priority, preference, or position)?
3. From among what alternatives have you chosen it?
4. To what consequences have you given thoughtful consideration before choosing it?
5. Have you chosen your value (priority, preference, or position) freely?
6. How have you acted on or done anything about your choice?
7. To what extent have you acted on this value (priority, preference or position) with repetition, pattern, and consistency?
8. How have you affirmed your value among competing options even when that is difficult or painful?
9. If someone who knew you well were asked to describe your values, what would they say are your top values? How does that square with what you proclaim as your values?
10. In sum, how are you living the values you say are important to you?
As the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson advised, “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”
Values are not things. They are not fixed. More helpful, think of valuing: an evaluative process where this course of action is more important than that one — at this moment.
As such, what you are valuing (giving your prime attention and energy to now) can change depending on circumstances. For example, prioritizing your career at one time, family or leisure at another.
If you are going to lead with integrity, you must be aware of, and intentional about, the value choices you make and act upon.
Note: The first seven tests were adapted from Simon, Howe, & Kirschenbaum (1995/1972), Values Clarification: A practical, action-directed workbook, p. 24.