Business & Leadership

Values-based Leadership

I’m fresh out of my second Leadership and Organizational Change class, and values are fresh on my mind. Today, we spent a lot of time reflecting on and evaluating our personal values, something that I thought I was already ahead of the curve on, but my mind = blown, and I want to jot some thoughts down to solidify them as I eat some snacks before Financial Accounting.

First, we were asked to reflect on how we think about values. I was one of a few people in the class to confidently answer that I could name 5 prioritized values that I held, and I jotted them down to be prepared to list them when I was called on (which I was). At the start of class, I listed:

  1. Growth
  2. Empathy
  3. Innovation
  4. Equity
  5. Transparency

I was thinking a lot about work in those values, and specifically, how I show up at Mozilla. And while I definitely still value all five of those things, after today’s class, my personal understanding of my values have shifted a lot.

There’s a lot of research that shows how understanding one’s values (and how they align to an organization) makes for better leaders and happier people. Cheat codes for being happier? I’ll take them! That research was interspersed throughout the class, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to hear about backing statistics on how reflecting on personal values makes people more ethical and do better at combating stereotype threat.

Our core exercise today was multi-faceted, ending with us having eight (I took an extra value for a total of nine) values in a personal value hierarchy. Over the next week, I’ll be working on a graphic to showcase these values, but for today, I’ll share them (in a roughly prioritized order):

  1. Connected to the universe
    1. Ambition
      1. Ethical
        1. Diversity
      2. Collaboration
        1. Fun
          1. Creativity
        2. Communication
          1. Understanding

This hierarchy isn’t the most intuitive without context, so the way that I would describe this is:

“My ultimate value is my connection to the universe. For me, this means collaborating with others in an ethical manner, including diverse groups, and enabling a fun, creative environment build on a willingness to communicate with a deep understanding of each other.”

How does that compare to my original five goals? I might describe them as:

“My ultimate value is growth, done in a way that shows empathy towards other people and utilizes innovation to build equity in a transparent way.”

The latter is more concise, and is still (almost) true. What it lacks, though, is a connection to a deeper purpose – why am I growing? What is that value taking me towards? After today’s exercises, I feel much more capable of describing my values in clearer ways.

But while they are different lists and different statements, these values aren’t contradictory. The values hierarchy we created today in class focuses somewhat on the “how” and “why” – exploring explicit connections between values and the priorities we give them. My original list was more outcome-driven; something that I’m starting to see as a trend in this class.

We also discussed how values can benefit us, which includes improving our interpersonal relationships and decision-making. Something that emerged as a general understanding is that – while people may choose different words to describe their values – many of us share a deep connection to our values, and by sharing those values with one another, we develop a deeper trust and understanding of ourselves and our communities.

I continue to want to come back to some of my early explorations of communication and collaboration as we go through this course. The fact that both of those were featured so prominently in my personal values is no accident – they continue to motivate so much of how I spend my time. Given that, I feel extremely lucky that I get to work at a company where these values are reflected, on a product that enables those activities.

I don’t take that for granted today. As I look at my values hierarchy, I can see where my career has influenced my values, and vice-versa. I feel very grateful for where I’m at today, and that I can bring you along (at least a bit!) for the ride.