Skip to content

In my last couple of newsletters, I have been talking about core values as a leader and how at the foundation is being good. A few of my readers challenged the writing that there is more to leadership than being good, and they are 100% right. I just didn’t want to write a 50,000-word newsletter espousing all leadership values and attributes, as I am sure not a single person would read it. However, I want to take this week’s newsletter to expand our thinking of core values.

Core values mean different things to different people, as they should. But why? Values can vary across different geographies, cultures, generations and a whole host of demographics. What one person thinks is perfectly acceptable within their geography, age group, culture and demographics is not acceptable to someone else thousands of miles away, effectively living in a different world. So as Fearless Leaders, we really need to strive to do two things:

  1. Define Our Own Core Values
  2. Respect the Values of the People We Lead

Let me start by giving my perspective of how my values have come to be. I had the good fortune of growing up in a family that volunteered for everything and subsequently I had a set of values imprinted on me by my parents and my sister Beth, who had down’s syndrome. My Mom & Dad didn’t use the word “values” often, but their actions were louder than their words. Many of the imprints are alive and well today in how I strive to live my life on a daily basis with my family and kids. Then my senior year of college I was reading a book by Ken Follett titled “On Wings of Eagles.” It was the true story of how Ross Perot, the founder of Electronic Data Systems, EDS, a leader in the technology services field had broken two of his employees wrongly accused out of an Iranian jail when no one else could. After reading that book, I made a decision that EDS was the company I wanted to work for – if they were willing to do that for their employees, it was the place for me. I still remember not getting an interview with EDS when they visited our campus, but I still put my only white shirt, gray pants and blue blazer on and waited for the EDS recruiter to check in and then I “jumped him” with my resume and all the reasons I needed to interview with him. He agreed to lunch, and 3 months later I was a Phase I at EDS sitting in “business orientation” in Plano, Texas. Within the very first hour of my professional career, we were talking core values and the importance of them as an EDS employee – in that moment I felt I was where I was meant to be. So, what are my core values today – strength, courage, faith, service, humility and leadership. In the coming newsletters, I would like to take some time and talk about many of these – but in the future, not today, keeping this a short read.

I just outlined my core values as a Fearless Leader above, but more so I attempted to tell a few short stories of how they were formed in me – by my personal family and also by my professional family early in my career. What are your core values? Consciously or subconsciously, what values have been imprinted on you? Who has been influential in forming your core values? Have you consciously investigated, or put thought into what your core values are TODAY? If you have, that is great, if you have not, I’d like to suggest you take some time to think about this in the coming days and weeks. Every few years I review mine and either validate my existing core values or update them. I remember after having my kids, I often heard my parents voice come out of my mouth, and I realized I was simply passing down values from generation to generation,although a few times I did find it scary in fact.(Did I really just sound exactly like my Dad?)

Now on to second part of what we strive to do – Respect the Values of the People We Lead. In a world of 7.7 BILLION PEOPLE, we will work, live and play with many diverse people that we align with, don’t align with, that we like, that we don’t like, that we agree with, that we disagree with and personally, I embrace that challenge – even when it is daunting or maddening. Why?Because if you truly are striving to be the best leader you can be, you need to listen and respect the people you lead. Now please note, I am not saying always agree with them, take on their values, or accept their behaviors if in fact they are not proper, but if you truly work diligently to listen, understand, and respect people you will find that differences that seem miles apart may only be a few yards away. I can’t tell you enough or stress enough how often I have gone into a meeting thinking “we were on different ends of the spectrum on a topic” only to find out hours later that an inch of differences had been blown out of proportion.

So, what are some key steps to respecting the values of people we lead? Listen, Ask, Understand. Minimize.

  • Listen actively to the person you are leading.  If you are willing to listen, you will learn some new things. 
  • Ask open ended questions, practice inquiry not advocacy. If you ask more questions, you will consciously open your mind to new ideas you hadn’t thought of before.
  • Understand their perspective and why it is their perspective.  When you truly understand, you are in the best position to lead your team members.
  • Minimize your difference, don’t magnify them.  Focus on how much you are aligned, and take the focus off of the parts you are not. 

Leading is messy, it’s not like a math equation where there is a definitive right and wrong answer. In certain situations, the answer may be clearer, and often times your values drive the clarity. In other situations, the answer often is “it depends”, that’s where situational awareness becomes a critical skill to possess.

Being a Fearless Leader is an awesome opportunity and I encourage you to further define your own core values and always respect the values of the people you lead.




The FUD Factor

Magnify your positive impact on the world by learning how to remove fear, uncertainty and doubt in yourself and the people around you. This book offers an in-depth, actionable approach to uncovering your fearless leadership potential.

Join the Fearless Leadership Movement

Discover how Brendan can help you or your organization thrive through fearless leadership.