Antagonist sea witches.

“Your values become your destiny.” – Gandhi

Welcome to the fifth post of the Blonde! We have officially surpassed the introductory, first-date phase so let’s dive in to the good stuff.

As usual, we will begin with a small recap. Last post I discussed the bad and the dirty that accompanies positions of leadership and the challenges leaders can face when acting upon the five practices of ideal leadership. These practices have been researched and approved as practices that should be performed to achieve extraordinary leadership. Within that post, I also promised I would highlight these practices in separate posts and, henceforth, I am now making good on that promise.

The first practice defined in these five “exemplary” actions of leaders is the practice of modeling the way. While this concept seems relatively straightforward, (and you would not be wrong in thinking so, it is literally modeling the way for your followers), there is a touch more depth than it appears.

Modeling the way is comprised of two behaviors: clarifying your values through finding your voice and setting the example by aligning your actions with such values. Our good friends from last post, James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, summarized this concept in a prescription for leaders: DWYSYWD.

Make sense? Perfect, thought so. It’s fair to say this post needs no further explanation then. It’s been real and I’ll catch you next time.

Makes sense

(we all know I cannot end a post without a Disney reference, though, so I actually have to continue).

DWYSYWD is simply “do what you say you will do.” This is at the heart of leadership. It is the “say” and “do” of consistently living out your values and holding your actions accountable to your words. Communication experts have deemed this the credibility in leadership.

Kouzes and Posner have executed extensive research on leadership in addition to their proficient insight within the manner. Per their research of over one-hundred thousand respondents who report to a position of higher power, across numerous industries and countries, it was concluded that constituents look for the traits of honesty, competency, inspiring, and forward-looking in a person whom they would be willing to follow. These are the transportable traits every leader’s repertoire should obtain. Kouzes and Posner have defined these as the “credibility” characteristics.

This quality of being trusted and believed in is indispensable. Kouzes and Posner’s data confirms that such credibility, that DWYSYWD, is the foundation of leadership. But how are these transportable traits translated to action? How do values affect these actions? What is credibility behaviorally, anyway?

As aforementioned, DWYSYWD is both a “say” and “do” concept. Because each aspect is complemented by extensive supporting evidence to their successes, we are going to split the Model the Way practice into two separate posts discussing each aspect respectively, beginning with “say”: finding your voice of leadership.

Kouzes and Posner, along with numerous other leadership professionals, stress that becoming an exemplary leader requires you to first fully comprehend how to lead yourself. This entails finding your voice and affirming it through your values. Your voice is the most genuine expression of who you are. Through discovering what you prioritize and what defines you, you are ascertaining your voice along the way.

Your voice is not the power behind the breaths you take. Your voice is the power behind the actions you make.

When I first began my journey in OL, every course in which I was enrolled for my first two years heavily emphasized the impact personal values hold on your effectiveness in leadership. Each professor would lecture on this profound significance and stressed that we aspiring leaders clearly understood the magnitude to which our leading voices relied on these merits. I was overwhelmed with such a need to disclose these values I was to have supposedly known already and project a voice that resounds such a Morgan Freeman impact. I had always known I have never lacked in having a voice, but have I lacked in being powerful?

To that point, the only values I had discovered in my life were the values I held in rich red to burgundy colored, long-wear lip stains, even richer cabernet sauvignons, and dresses with pockets. Beyond that, I hadn’t committed to establishing or affirming to any kind of value that would guide me as a leader or progress me to be an honest, competent, inspiring and forward-looking individual. I often left class doubting my decision to pursue OL. If I didn’t obtain these sought for and admired values to lead myself, how was I to ever find my voice to lead others?

Well, what are values, then, if not the profound appreciation of lip wear and fashion? Simply stated, they are enduring beliefs. In leadership, values refer to the here-and-now beliefs that motivate us to accomplish what we set out to accomplish. It’s not what compels you, it’s the power behind why you are compelled. When you experience an achievement, your values are what drive the feeling of satisfaction from acting on what you believed to lead you there. They influence where your priorities lie and how you are using your voice to assert them. Whether you are privy to your values or not, they are involved in every aspect of your life.

So, like, no pressure right?

Values do hold great significance, I cannot tell a lie. They come across in the power of your voice and they impact, not only how you hear yourself, but how others hear you as well. Others perceive you through the voice you emit. However, if you’ve never perceived values and the part they play in leadership or how to define them, to recognize such an effect is challenging and, even more so, to recognize how values set the parameters for how you lead yourself regularly is daunting.

I vividly recall the moment I realized it was time I seriously considered my values. It was the first day of classes for the 2016 fall semester and my first day as a Wright State undergrad. My professor for my morning class had an obligatory “introductions” activity in which each table was to discuss the proposed questions on the screen. The last of these asked what goal we had hoped to accomplish throughout the year. As my table began answering, the five classmates ahead of me each responded with some eloquent personal goal such as, “I want to wake up earlier to allow myself time for meditation,” or, “I want to devote at least an extra hour to studying each night.” We had made our way around the table to me, honest-to-God verbatim, I answered, “I was hoping to challenge myself to stop playing with my hair all the time.”

If there was ever a moment to label me “blonde,” I had just achieved it. I was definitely known by those fellow classmates to have had a voice, just not quite the voice with a resounding impact.

Now, anyone who knows me well enough knows that was actually a valid aspiration. Perhaps ill-timed in avowing to it, but definitely valid (and I threw that goal out the window anyway). It has been a defining moment in my journey with OL, however, as I have since become attuned to the part values play in my leadership and I would now reply with a voice that emulated the drive seen within my classmates’ responses.

Luckily, I am enrolled in a major that has stressed I define my values and has provided the resources I need to do so. But, if you’ve been “blonde-moment” me before, you’ve questioned what it even means to define your values, these so all-enduring beliefs that hold such a significance to your life. Well, fellow Ariel’s, it’s time we find your voice.

Ariel voice

(that’s actually kind of creepy… my bad).

This exercise is going to require a #2 pencil and some effort, so, take a moment, and set yourself up for success.

Step 1.

In the first process, think through and describe these three concepts:

  1. What would you consider three of your greatest accomplishments?
  2. What would you consider three of your most memorable moments?
  3. What common rules or themes can you identify between both responses?

Step 2.

Secondly, think through and describe these three concepts:

  1. What would you consider three of your biggest failures?
  2. What would you consider three of your most frustrating moments?
  3. What common rules or themes can you identify between both responses?

Step 3.

And, lastly, what, in your life, would you consider most important? Beyond basic human needs, what do you need to experience fulfillment?

Below, I’ve completed this exercise to provide a general idea in case you may be questioning how to execute it.

Step 1.

  1. My first year playing high school soccer, making first team all-district. The following year, making honorable mention all-district after a season in which I played less than half the games, on a sprained ankle, nonetheless, before having to stop my year short due to surgery. Starting this blog after three years of prior attempts.
  2. Visiting an orphanage in Honduras on a mission trip, one of the children I spent my free time with stuck by my side the whole week. Hugging my grandparents for the first time after I arrived home from inpatient treatment for my anorexia. Lacerating my liver in the fourth grade and feeling the outpour of love from my friends and family (we’ll get into that story another time).
  3. I see that I value achievement. I value challenging myself. I value finding passions in myself and pushing others to find their passions. I value people because they have something to offer. I value relationships.

Step 2.

  1. Planning to do a six-month long mission trip overseas but decided not to go the morning my plane was to depart. Leaving after my sophomore year at Ohio University because I wanted to run from the issues I was having rather than fix them. Being admitted to inpatient and forcing my parents away from my sisters for a whole summer.
  2. Having to sit out half of my senior year in soccer because I had surgery. Wanting to find my “ideal” career but not knowing where my strengths truly lie. Being unaware whether this blog is even holding an impact on someone.
  3. I lack faith in myself when I know others will see me fail. I hate failing others. I hate facing disappointment in my work after I’ve pushed so hard to achieve something. I hate feeling worthless.

Step 3.

Family. Meaningful friendships. A drive to push myself. Health and fitness. Hugs. A reason to wake up every morning. People who rely on me to show up. Being present. Laughter. Wine.

Step 4.

Between these three processes, you have loosely outlined your core values. Within these values, look for any overarching themes and group them together. Once grouped, select a word or a few words that best label each group.

Step 4.

Value circles

Step 5.

You have (low-key) officially found your voice! The word(s) you have selected to label each group represents a value. It may not be the most professional exercise you have ever completed, but it can help warm up those vocal cords.

These responses are personal reflections of your core values and the voice that has been guiding you throughout your life. In leadership, this is how we are challenged to lead ourselves. It was only when I took time to know the most genuine expression of who I am and for what I stand that I stopped doubting my decision to pursue OL and I foresaw the significances my values can hold. Do I still have doubts and struggles? Of course. But, finding my voice shifted my perception in how I am heard. I better understood that the actions I make speak to the values I endear and those values are what power me to lead myself.

When I became authentic to my voice, I found I could better project the credibility to be honest, competent, inspiring and forward-looking. Sometimes, just as Ariel though, you lose your voice to weakened values or misguided actions. It’s not an easy process and you have to endure challenges and failures, and sometimes, antagonist sea witches to find, regardless of these barriers, your genuine voice is your greatest power.

We will further elaborate values and enrichen their content when we discuss the application of values in your life. As for now, you have assessed your guides to action and the impact of your voice. But what about assessing those actions and impacts? This is credibility behaviorally and the “do” concept of DWYSYWD. Stay tuned for next week’s post where we’ll continue the practice of Modeling the Way. Keep those vocal cords active.

So, this is the blonde finding a voice. And defining a few values in-between.

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