The bedrock of great leadership

It's all about you!

Why is it important to talk about you? Quite simply, because the way you conduct yourself is going to have a massive impact on whether others want to follow you. ln order to get the very best from people, you need their trust, confidence and respect. And they are not going to willingly follow someone whose attitudes and behaviours stink! Sure, they might turn up and do what they need to do before rushing off home again (they need the money after all), but if you want the people you lead to win, you need every ounce of their discretionary effort. From all of them. And guess what? That discretionary effort is reserved for people they appreciate and respect. Someone who fails to secure that discretionary effort is not fulfilling one of the basic requirements of workplace leadership.

Your core values matter

Copyright: <a href=''>unkreatives / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

So before you work on developing your leadership capabilities, you may well need to work on yourself!


Some might argue that your values and behaviours as a leader don't matter nearly as much as your ability to get the job done. That may be true when the leadership requirement covers a specific task or a shorter moment in time. People may tolerate weaknesses in some areas in the hope and belief that they have the right person in place to see an urgent and important task through. Think of a person who is thrust into a leadership role in a crisis for example. But if the leadership role is ongoing, people are going to struggle to get behind someone whose attitudes they don't respect.

'If you want the people you lead to win, you need every ounce of their discretionary effort. From all of them.'

Values, beliefs and behaviours

The starting point as to whether people trust and respect you is determined by your behaviours, day in and day out. If you behave poorly, then people of quality and integrity are going to avoid you. And your behaviours are determined by your value system and beliefs. We can call this the bedrock of your leadership attributes. Get this right and you have solid ground upon which you can build. Ignore it and whatever you try and build will likely collapse.

In an interesting article titled 'Five ways leaders are different to managers', the author Stefano Trojani refers to research on what people felt were the most important characteristics of leaders. Guess what - integrity topped the list. So you have to get it right!


But getting your values, beliefs and behaviours sorted could be one of the hardest things you have ever done! Daunting as it may sound, you need to do an inventory of your behaviours, and then think about the changes that you will need to make to your belief system. Now you might say: 'Why worry about my beliefs - surely if I fix my behaviours, then who cares about my beliefs?'

Sorry, but it doesn't work like that. Your behaviours are, to a great extent a manifestation of your beliefs and values. Your beliefs determine your behaviours. Some have likened it to an iceberg. The bit you see above water is your behaviours. But the greater part, your beliefs, is under water and out of sight. But the part underwater dermines what is above. It's 90% of what there is. If you want to change your behaviours, you have to change your values.

Furthermore, even when you have defined the list of values and behaviours that you want to live by, just having the list won't make it happen. So my advice is to get some help from a person that you trust and respect. Whether you call them a mentor, coach or just a wise friend, their help could prove invaluable in keeping you honest.

How to change your values, beliefs and behaviours

The process of changing your values comes from thinking about your current value system, deciding what you want to change, convincing yourself of the need for change, applying disciplined effort and forming new positive habits.

Step 1.

Go and watch the film 'Despicable Me', in which the main character becomes aware of his own rotten value system and ends up a very different person! Now think about your current behaviours. What beliefs and values (or the lack of them) are behind those behaviours? What do you like and what don't you like? What would you want to change. Now think about, discuss and write down in your journal a set of statements that you would like to be true about you. These are the fundamentals that (if consistently applied) will determine how you conduct important aspects of your life. Here are a few suggestions to get you going, but chop them around and make the list your own. You may want to review and change it once you have reflected on it and discussed it with others - that's ok:​

  • I am honest with myself and others, I conduct my life with integrity
  • I treat everyone with the same courtesy and respect, regardless of who they are, what they do and where they come from
  • I am courageous - I confront that which is wrong
  • The behaviour of others will not determine mine
  • I encourage and help others to give of their best
  • I am enthusiastic, energetic and positive
  • I think before I speak
  • I am reliable, I do what I say I am going to do
  • I am consistent in my beliefs and behaviours
  • I look for the good in others without being naive

Step 2.

You now need to convince yourself of the benefits of consistently applying these new values in your life. How will your life change for the better? What sort of person will you become along the way? What impact will these changes have on the people around you - family, friends, work colleagues? How much better a person will you become. How far will you be able to grow professionally? Again, talking this through with your wise friend will help to embed the thinking. Write down the reasons for change and the benefits it will bring to your life in your journal.

Step 3.

Learn the list of values that you have decided you are going to live by off by heart. Imprint them on your brain so that you can recall them word for word without hesitation!

Step 3.

Now that you have your list written down, put 15 minutes in your calendar each day when you are going to review how you are doing with your list. It should be at the same time each day. Think carefully about the day, make notes in your journal about the situations that you found yourself in and ask yourself how you did. Be honest! Reward yourself if you have done well and be tough on yourself if you have not! Then make notes about what you are going to have to do to improve.

Step 4.

Read your notes again first thing in the morning and resolve to do better today!

Step 5.

Discuss your progress with your wise friend or friends regularly. You are trying to develop a habit of living the values that you have decided you want to shape your life, and developing that habit is going to take perhaps 30 days of disciplined, hard work!

'People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.'
John C Maxwell
Your behaviours and values are like an iceberg

Copyright: Eero Oskari Porkka,

A good leader has a moral integrity that survives both success and failure.

Sir Elton John

'The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.'
Ray Croc

All aboard!

A good way to think about yourself as a leader is as the captain of a ship. Now, it doesn't matter if you are a supervisor of a few people or the head of an organisation employing many thousands; the fact is that you are the captain of your ship. It might be an aircraft carrier or a rowing boat, but either way you are in charge! People look to you for direction, guidance, advice and to set the standards for others to follow. And like it or not, you are 'on show' at all times. Everything that you do, or don't do, say or don't say will be noticed (even subconsciously) and will inform the attitudes and behaviours of others. As a leader, you must be visible, and you had better be acting in a way that generates respect and trust in those whom you want to be your followers.


Put simply, being a leader requires that you conduct yourself like one. And you won't be able to sustain the right behaviours until or unless you have your value system sorted, for it's your value system that generates the behaviour. That's why we talked earlier about the need to get your values and behaviours sorted out. 

Let's think about the captain of a war ship. What values and behaviours would we expect to see from him or her in order that we would willingly follow into harm's way?

Put simply, we would expect to see courage, determination, knowledge, skill, discipline and compassion; plus the very highest standards in everything that he or she does. And if the ship were characterised by sloppiness, disorder, bullying? Would you be comfortable being led into battle by a captain who allowed that to happen? I think not.

So I urge you to think about the values, standards and behaviours with which you are going to be associated. I am not suggesting that you need to look or behave like a navy captain. Your environment may be very different. But whilst good leaders of modern tech businesses may create an appearance that is far from 'military', their values, beliefs, thinking and standards are every bit as disciplined. What about yours?

Consistency is powerful

A word about consistency. Consistency is one of the most powerful traits a leader can exhibit. And why is that? Human beings struggle with people who are unpredictable and difficult to anticipate. Such people cause stress, as you never know how they are going to behave and react. Inconsistency creates mistrust.


So developing a consistent set of behaviours (hopefully positive ones!) makes you considerably more attractive to people. They will trust you more, have more confidence in you and find you easier to be with.

'In the end, leadership comes down to consistency and strong, confident action upon which the team can rely'

Don Yaeger

Emotional Intelligence

Much is being written about emotional intelligence these days, and with good reason. E.I. as it's often referred to can be defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships thoughtfully and empathetically.


So what has this got to do with leadership? The answer is a lot. As a start, there is a big overlap between the values that we have talked about here and E.I. There is also a lot of evidence that equates success more with emotional intelligence than I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient), the traditional measure of intelligence. There can be no doubt that having well developed E.I. is going to make life more pleasant, and you more effective as a leader. A lack of ability to control ones emotions, or to handle relationships well is going to seriously hamper your capacity to perform as an effective leader in the longer term. The ability to see things from the perspective of others, keep your cool and control your emotions is an important trait for a leader.

See also the section on Assertion Skills, which is relevant to the topic.