If values are the answer, then what was the question? (FLS)
Module 1 of the Future Leaders Scheme (FLS) — Understanding Your Leadership Role
The Future Leaders Scheme is one of the UK Civil Service’s Accelerated Development Schemes, aimed at high-potential grade 6 and 7 civil servants. You can read my candidate statement here and my early reflections here.
This blog post is being written as part of my coursework for the Module 1 of the Future Leaders Scheme that I will be studying for the next couple of years. I thought it was worth sharing — I found it interesting to write and good to think about what value are and for.
The aim of module one is to begin an ongoing process of consciously and critically reviewing leadership practice and its impact. The first module focuses on you as a leader by:
- identifying our leadership as it is now and the leader that we aspire to be in the future;
- critically evaluating our own practice;
- the context in which our leadership takes place;
- the factors that influence our choices as a leader and the impact that those choices have on ourselves and others i.e. our leadership shadow; and,
- the changes that we want to make and ways that we might put those into action.
The purpose of the pre-work is to begin the critical evaluation of ourselves, our organisations, and our organisational context. This is intended to help us deepen our understanding of our approach to leadership.
What are your core values and beliefs? What are most important to you, that help you find your way in dark times, and that provide you with a sense of purpose?
“Effective and authentic leadership requires a clear understanding of your own core values and beliefs and a strong sense of the behaviours that are in alignment with those values and beliefs. Values are principles or standards — they are not context dependent; they are based on what’s important to us and what we need to feel a sense of wellbeing. Beliefs are assumptions that we hold about the world and that we believe to be true — they are contextual and largely stem from our experience.” — Future Leaders Scheme, 2022
Pick your values. Stick to them. Everything else will follow. Once you know who you are, you can stop trying to be who you’re not. It doesn’t matter what your values are, you just need to them and be the best version of yourself that you can be. If you don’t make an effort to define your values, no one else will do it for you.
I’ve reflecting on the notion of ‘values,’ and the strength of feeling around them. I’ve been asked to state my values — and I’ve been given a long list to help me. Pick the one out that jumps at me? I’m struggling with that, and to describe exactly what my values are in ways more specific than general and subjective words like, ‘kindness.’ Well, they are all good words. But what do they mean, and who are they for?
Most people believe they hold ‘values’ and that their values are good. It is akin to choosing our own story and weaving everything that happens to you into one, coherent, infinitely extending thread — to make sense of, form, and tell a story bigger than ourselves. They’re a tapestry on which we can pin our many transformations. Values define our inner world, in some way or another, providing us with a sense of continuity. It is possible to identify others that do not share the ‘values’ we hold ourselves.
For me, values are internal, subjective, malleable— and crucially, they may change over time (as needs or demands change). They are shared through hope and language. This makes them elastic and fluid, based on perception (of words and behaviour), similar to beliefs and ideas. They expand and contract, are virtuous and imperfect, and important in expressing our individual beliefs and opinions. So, is it possible to use them meaningfully?
I’ve found myself mulling over how we might hold values in thought and action, and examine or live them honestly. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these questions (inspired by @julianstodd):
- Where do we find our values? Are they universal and eternal, or are they inherited and instilled?
- Are values something we need to be conscious of, to curate, and to clean out?
- What if values are not ‘real’? What if they are conjured up in the narrative of a moment?
- Where does they sit — head, heart, soul, or collectively within socially bonded structures?
- How do we hold them? Are they a basket, filter, foundation, or mirror?
- How do they directly or indirectly inform our action, if at all? What specific actions do we take to reach them, or the way in which we fail?
- How useful are they? How much impact do they have beyond the aspirational?
- What are the risks involved with living without values?
I think ‘values’ are important, that they are the driver of intent and action, held in stories and connected to moments. Maybe we should ask ourselves, “what is our personal relationship with ‘values?’ and how, and why, do we deviate our actions from them?” Otherwise, values appear to be a term often used that is little understood.
And if values are the answer, then what was the question?
I have developed a wiki to openly document my Future Leaders Scheme learning journey: