written by Angie Morgan

Think of someone you admire. Someone you’re influenced and inspired by.

Now, ask yourself: “What have they done to have this type of impact on me?”

Chances are, this individual has integrity, cares about you, invests in your relationship, and has a sincerity about them that rings true.

This person undoubtedly has a strong character, meaning they have value congruence. They are who they say they are, and they do what they say they do. Their adherence to their values and commitments results in a follow through and, throughout time, they’ve demonstrated behaviors that have generated your trust and respect.

Value Congruence and Character Go Hand-in-Hand

We all want to be this type of person for others – a person who is consistent in thought, word, and deed, and expresses values that are shared, inspiring, and unifying.

To achieve this takes reflection, time, and focus to discover the values that have meaning to you, which can include (but aren’t limited to):

Family Faith Security Achievement
Happiness Career Adventure Health
Goal Attainment Self Expression Affluence Service

When it comes to the values that are most important to you, there are no right or wrong answers. What’s important to note, too, is that our values change over time and with life stages. When you were younger, perhaps career was more important to you than family; as you’ve gotten older, maybe security is more of a priority than affluence.

Only you know what values matter to you. When your values are close to you and expressed consistently in your actions, they manifest into behaviors that represent your character. You become the type of person others can depend upon because you’re consistent and what you value is transparent.

On the flip side, we’ve all known people who say one thing, do another. It’s not that these seemingly “good” people are “bad” or have poor character. Rather, it’s just that we can never tell what to expect from them, so it’s hard to get a read on them and make a character judgment about them.

As an example, we’ve all had a manager or colleague who …

  • Says they value transparency and candor but seem to work out a lot of situations behind closed doors.
  • State they want us to have work-life balance, but task us excessively on evenings and weekends.
  • Want us to come to them with our problems, then chastise us for the problems we bring to them.

This type of incongruence is rarely intentional; it often reflects a lack of self-awareness from the individual demonstrating these behaviors. This highlights the criticality of understanding your values because you want to be the individual whose words and behaviors are in harmony.

With that said, knowing your values, and living your values, is tough, but it’s worthwhile work. It’s an important time investment though, because the expression of your values has more impact than just your reputation.

Your values can serve as your North Star, helping you navigate tough situations or make difficult decisions. When presented with a choice that can send you into a different direction, a solid values consultation can help ensure that you make the right choice to live consistently with your intentions. (Added bonus: living your values also helps you sleep a lot better at night, too.)

Values, when close, also serve as self-fulfilling prophecies. This is called the Galatea Effect – a phenomena that’s been researched in a variety of scenarios and whose name refers to a Greek myth about an ivory statue that comes to life – and suggests that our images, beliefs, and ideas about ourselves have a powerful influence over our behavior.

So, if you value truth and candor, and these values are always top of mind, you’re transparent and direct when needed. Or, if you value family, and are offered a promotion that will require extensive travel and time away from home, your values will help direct you towards making the best choice for you.

In many ways, our values can inspire us to live up to our own expectations we have for ourselves and help us lead our life with intention.

Choices that reflect your values today do a tremendous honor and service to your future self. So, if you value health and an active lifestyle, your 70-year-old self will thank you for making these priorities in your earlier years. Or if you value happiness, a focus on developing this quality will help you build towards a fulfilling life.

Personal and Organizational Value Congruence

It’s fair to say that while your values are unique to you, many will also be shared by others. This is often the case in some of our deepest and most valuable relationships.

It should be noted, too, that there will be times when our values aren’t aligned with others, to include organizations we work for … and that’s okay.

Being able to have a values disconnect with an individual or a business doesn’t make either party bad or wrong; it just means that what you each value is different. This difference can feel confusing, but most prominently it feels like the wrong “fit.”

If you’ve ever had a relationship that didn’t click, or a job where you didn’t feel comfortable with being yourself, this likely had to do with mismatched priorities, such as:

  • You value collaboration, but your manager values autonomy
  • Your business values entrepreneurship, but you value stability
  • You value career advancement, but there’s no clear career path for you in your organization

The choice you have in scenarios where there’s a poor values fit is either suffer through or make a change. (Granted, this doesn’t feel like much of a choice.) But the latter action, making a change, can be the best action because it allows you to self-direct your life towards a place where you can achieve at your highest level of contribution. This is the place where you’ll feel most engaged.

It’s been researched and reported that employees aligned with the same organizational values have higher levels of engagement, which leads to better results for the individual and the business.

We all want to get there – that point where our contributions are maximized. You might be doing yourself a disservice by working in an environment where it’s difficult to achieve to your fullest potential; demonstrating agency by directing your life not only allows you to empower yourself, but also could direct you towards an opportunity perfectly suited for you.

Activating your personal values helps you live a life of integrity 

Personal integrity is such a powerful, profound, and desirable characteristic. Integrity is often used synonymously with the word “truth.”

When you enact your values, you’re demonstrating your truth – your expressions of yourself that are most honest and authentic, which not only fulfills you on many levels, but also inspires those around you.

Activating your values and making choices that allow you to adhere to them more closely, can have the potential to create disruptions in your life. It can require you to make change, and change, at any age or stage in life, can be difficult. The benefit, though, to the discomfort of change is that you step towards the life you were meant to live and lead, one that better reflects what it is that you were put on this earth to do. It also can be the regret-prevention choice you need to make to ensure you look back on your life in later years proud of the journey you made to live truer to yourself.

Putting Your Values into Action

It’s clear that developing your character, and creating congruence between your values and actions, is deep and heavy work. It’s often creating a pathway where there’s no paved road.

The process starts with disconnection and self candor. Take the time on evenings and weekends to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What’s important to me now?
  • What do I enjoy doing most?
  • What do I envision will be important to me five years from now?
  • What’s missing from my life?
  • What talents do I possess that are underutilized?
  • What haven’t I done that I’ve always wanted to do?
  • If I had to list my top three values, what would they be?
  • Are these top three values active in my life currently (and to my satisfaction)?
  • What changes do I need to make to ensure my values are better represented in my life?
  • What do I need to stop doing to ensure I have more opportunity to express my values?

After you’ve had a chance to reflect and answer these questions, sit with your answers and revisit the questions a few days later to see if your answers are still accurate and hold true.

Once you feel as if you’ve got a clear sense of your values, be honest with yourself, and seek to understand what actions you can realistically take to better express them in your daily life.

It’s also useful to journal for a time period, too, to write about your journey of expressing your values.  Writing can be a clarifying process that helps you articulate your challenges and opportunities in ways that thinking, alone, can’t. Consider journaling for five minutes every night, then conclude with an intention for the next day that you aspire to live up to.

It’s Up to You

The most important relationship you have in this world is the one you have with yourself. Be the leader who focuses on cultivating your values so you can be an inspiration to yourself and those around you. Just as the journey of self-discovery is never-ending, so is the one for values expression. While you never know where it’ll take you, this is one thing you can count on: your life will be enriched knowing that you’re striving to live up to the potential you know that’s inside of you.

At Lead Star, we believe that anyone has the ability to be a leader – a person who influences and inspires. We’re so committed to this belief that our work isn’t just for managers. Our work is for anyone who’s seeking to make a positive difference for themselves, for others, and the organizations they are a part of.

Being a leader all starts with you and your willingness to go on a leadership development journey. With SPARK, we’ll give you a roadmap. We’re proud to be on this path with you.