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You need to define your personal core values

4 Leadership Core Values my Business Must Live By

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4 min read

Leadership Core Values

Leadership core value are the fundamental beliefs that drive the behaviours and actions of individuals – be they organisational leaders, public service workers or skilled professionals.  Through these personal core values, organisations are defined, and leadership roles either become simpler or a nightmare of day to day problems and issues. 

Whilst many organisations keep a tightly controlled focus on expenses, stock levels and even stationary!  Few have cost or even understand the intangible value of the cultural DNA (living company values) that resides within their organisation and how it feeds directly into bottom-line performance and growth.

Leadership core values – Takeovers and mergers

have seen and experienced this on several occasions during corporate takeovers – a previously successful organisation or consultancy is sold by its founder or partners to a competitor.  A new suite of managers parachutes in and immediately start to impose processes that reflect the new parent organisation’s workplace core values. While perfectly acceptable in principle, time is short, and these managers often make the mistake of failing to understand or appreciate what made that firm ‘successful’ enough for their employer to purchase it.  They usually look upon this new asset as a ‘failure’ that needs rescuing, rapidly turned around and rebooted to a new set of organisational instructions.  The organisation stumbles, the top talent walks and loses its intellectual capital, and with them that valuable intangible asset of organisational culture disappears.

Intangible Assets – Leadership Core Values

Core values help companies to determine if they are on the right path, fulfilling their goal or mission, living by their expected behaviours and ultimately how they treat and interact with their employees, customers, society and the environment.  Just as there are many types of leaders and employees, so there are many different examples of leadership core values driving organisational engines. 

Leadership style and character

Your leadership style and character become defined by your core values and the respect you have for other leaders that you follow (parents, teachers, other business leaders and colleagues).  They form the root of the living company values you have built up over time as a result of experience, nurture or nature.  Over time you develop an image of self as a leader, your leadership image is a reflection of repeated behaviours, your emotional intelligence to personal change and the feedback you receive from others.


For example, if you are always honest in your dealings with others and always tell the truth, you internally identify with the values of an ‘honest person’ and externally are perceived as an ‘honest person’.   If you tend towards the creative or collaborative in your style of work, then you are likely to find the highest satisfaction in roles that suit those give an outlet for those core values, and will often feel happiest amongst others who value those traits in the workplace.  It’s as simple as that. And yet, we collectively underestimate the importance of leadership core values in business and its impact on organisational growth, development and ability to manage change.

I have read many mission statements that define a set of workplace core values that the organisation would either like to aspire to or help them market an image of how they would like to be perceived.

Leadership core values are often internally than externally within organisations

The truth is that the organisational and leadership values displayed collectively as Value Statements or by individual leaders will often have a bigger impact on the inner workplace environment than on the external views of customers and stakeholders.  Only when they are demonstrated internally will they leak out into the outside world of the customer or client.  Whether they are written down or hidden away internally within the psyche of the workforce they define us and the organisations we work for, and ultimately form the foundation of a company’s character and how it interacts with society and the environment.

Thus, it makes sense that if you are willing to invest so much in your life, work, progression or in the creation of your own business, your leadership core values should be at the centre of your business life.

But what if you don’t feel you have any leadership core values? Perhaps now is the right time for reflection and to set them down for yourself, your team or even for your organisation!  

Leadership core values – as important as your business card

It is often reassuring to hear from another colleague the values that define them. It helps gives greater depth to their character when these characteristics are authentically displayed, and we automatically give credit into their ‘trust account’.   We need to feel that a person or leader is real for us to believe them, and all employees like to hear what the leader is thinking and to see those values in action.  We then feed that information into our character and compare them with our leadership core values. If those behaviours align with our own or inspire us to take action, then we are more likely to listen to and follow that leader in the direction they are setting. 

We have all encountered the faceless manager who repeats the party line, adopts the values expected but rarely demonstrates them, and hence lacks trust amongst the workforce! Beware the ‘enemies of trust‘ as outlines in a 2003 Harvard Business Review article.

Personal Development & Training

That’s why I went on a recent self-development course.  I wanted to reconsider and define my own personal core values to solve some questions I had been repeatedly asking myself as I contemplated updating my old website. 

  • Does my company (Leading Green) truly reflect the core values I value most?
  • Does my portfolio of training and consultancy services reflect my passion for helping others in environmental and sustainability leadership core areas?
  • If my own core values are clear, will they help attract clients of a similar mindset and attitude to my business?

Getting such fundamental questions straight in my head can only benefit my clients and their expectations from the services they require in their leadership journey.   It has led to the consideration of new training avenues and the elimination of others from the portfolio. I reasoned that my passion in those areas was not as high as it was for other leadership elements, and I have associates who would deliver a much better training role, and whom I am happy to pass on inquiries in good faith. 

If you are running your own business, are part of an SME or family business where group ethics dictate the direction, you may wish to explore where your leadership core values lie. If you are an organisational leader who has started to feel alienated or detached from their day job, then I would encourage you to do the same.  Once you know who you are and what you stand for in an organisation, you stop trying to be who you are not! That gives you the confidence to grow and expand your skill sets further or even move onto an organisation that aligns better with your values.

My Top 4 Leadership Values

These I have determined are my Top 4 Leadership Core Values:

Responsible Leadership

Good leaders add value to organisations and stimulate more extensive employee engagement.  Responsible leaders with a mindset that encompasses broader social and environmental parameters that influence business sustainability and growth have a broader perspective on how to prepare for future marketplace challenge.  I have made many mistakes in past leadership transactions but have also gained extensive experience in how I believe a responsible leader should act. Notably, that to keep motivated and to be successful, leaders need to continually embrace and set aside time for self-development, to reflect on past mistakes and examine leadership models and ethics that encompasses their core values.

Responsibility and Accountability

You cannot be a leader of others if you do not own your actions, mistakes, and current life responsibilities.  Understand what’s in your control, and fully own it within the organisation.  Don’t like something? Seek to change it. But don’t just focus on the ‘now’, take responsibility for risks and opportunities that are just beginning to emerge in society, the environment and in the values of your employees and customer

Being personnaly effective in role

This very much represents my skills-based ambitions. This core value drives my leadership ambitions continuously improve in many of the core practice areas of leadership – namely to be the best I can. It powers my drive to improve in:

  • Sustainable behaviours;
  • Commercial / Professional / Situational awareness
  • Team working;
  • Change management,
  • Assertiveness and Confidence;
  • Planning, organising and time management
  • Entrepreneurship, and finally
  • Flexibility and Adaptability

A rather long list, but with experience comes to the knowledge that you will never know everything and have to continually refresh and re-appraise your skill sets. I can only give my best to clients if I am clear where my performance levels lie, the quality with which I can perform them and the extent to which they ultimately contribute to higher business performance.

Do you, your team and its operational skill sets fulfil the responsibilities and mandates set for them?


As a trainer and consultant, clients place a high premium on integrity. In your professional field, it is likely to be similar amongst colleagues and employees. We naturally place a high premium on integrity than other leadership traits. Research shows that leaders with integrity strengthen businesses.  The added strength they bring places a premium on responsible leadership which has at its core: honesty, ethics and sustainability!

Everyone is ‘pro-integrity,’ but it needs to be defined internally and ultimately translated into the expected & accepted moral principles and behaviours that others explain as ‘integrity’. Otherwise, it is just an empty HR or CSR phrase! If you are interested in this topic, click here for a more personal insight to integrity.

I started with an original list of 25 values, it was a struggle on the day to reduce them down to only four leadership core values, but the personal effort was worth it.  Why only four attributes? The list is just long enough to highlight the areas I am most passionate about displaying within my work.

So, leaders need to realise that their core values define their words, actions, decisions and methodologies and ultimately, the businesses they run or an organisation’s actual values and culture.

If you are interested in exploring your personal core values as a leader, then why not inquire or book a place on our Core Values short course. This module is also contained within several of our Sustainability, Environmental and Responsible Leadership training courses.

Take home message: Your business values must be in line with your core values if you are seeking to build a successful business and become a better leader to your employees.


accountability, core values, effectiveness, integrity, responsibility

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