Do You Stand Up for What You Truly Value?
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The following excerpt is from Jeffrey Hayzlett’s book The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound
Hero leaders and companies always have a big vision that they pursue every day, and their values inform that vision. In the service of those values, they need to:
- Live their values
- Hold themselves responsible and accountable to their values every day
- Create a culture that reflects their values
- Think bigger and better than they already do and differently than they have before
- Welcome and actually listen to dissenting voices—not just the ones who affirm what you already believe
- Be willing to learn from others without thinking that new knowledge and nuance undermine what they believe
- Admit they don’t know it all
- See opportunities for partnerships and relationships in their people and the community that allow them to grow as businesses and leaders
- Be willing to sacrifice and compromise
- Be good and kind in how they treat others
All these things require flexibility and vulnerability, not to mention dedication and time. But while things like sacrifice and compromise are essential in how we work, there must be some values we’ll never compromise. Our core values are the ones that anchor us, our people, and our organizations and give us the courage to keep standing and fighting. No hero can operate successfully or have Hero Intensity without them.
So what’s non-negotiable for you? Chick-fil-A is an example of a company that stands up for its values. The company’s taken a stand on gay rights and gay marriage (for the record, it’s opposed), which has caused entire cities, like Boston, to reject the stores. The company’s stand may be opposite to mine, and I hope it will change. But I still eat at the restaurants, and so do many gay people I know, who also hope for change. Does that mean they lack the courage of their convictions, in patronizing a business that does not support who they are and how they want to live? Actually, it’s the opposite: They have the courage to support those who disagree. They still get served, no matter who they are, and made a choice to eat a delicious chicken sandwich, accepting that disagreement on values doesn’t mean they cannot be civil. I respect that we can have different values and still break bread. I can still learn from and respect other things the company does: how they live their values, treat their people, and help their communities.
To be honest, I only get my back up when people or organizations live by one rule, refuse to even consider that there could be exceptions, and then use that absolute to prevent you from accepting those who disagree (or who advocate any kind of violence against them).
Those people are convinced they have integrity and truth on their side and are living their values. On the face of it, non-negotiable values should only raise your Hero Intensity. But when they’re used to exclude others, not because of any offenses against others or trespasses against you but because the way they look, think, or believe just offends you? That’s being righteous under the guise of being right, a zealot not acting with zeal.
The nature of right and wrong is that values can evolve, and those values -- even your non-negotiables -- must be put to the test so you can understand that. What this means is you must have people opposing you -- whether it’s people who don’t like what you stand for or companies who want to bring you down by doing what you do better or disrupting how you do it. Otherwise, it really isn’t about you, right? Because you’re not a big enough hero for your values to matter.
The question is, does that challenge cause you to open up or double down? And do you know the difference? Because there’s no absolute right way, no matter how non-negotiable you are. A hero always needs a villain. Villains help heroes stand up for what they believe, test what they believe, and understand the complexities of doing the right thing. Being a hero is always about “doing the right thing.” But what happens next?
Do you use what your “villains” are doing to turn the spotlight of accountability on yourself or just condemn their values?
What is right when it comes to values is rarely black and white, especially when the choices are not simple or the problem is one you’ve never encountered before. Operationally, “right” can be a little easier. It can be about being efficient and doing things the best way possible, as quickly as possible, using the fewest number of people without screwing those people and hurting those who most need our protection. In that way, doing something best and right might cost you. If you want to hire people from your community, it will cost you more than paying someone in Latin America or Southeast Asia.
When it comes to Hero Intensity, however, and being true to who you are, what you are, and what your values are, hero leadership can be messy. So how do you deal with this messiness?
You do it by having the courage to be authentic. Always live your values, even if others don’t like them or they seem stuck in the past:
- Say no if it doesn’t fit into your values.
- Stay relentless even when the naysayers attack and the winds of change blow in the market.
- Do whatever it takes to lead and reach beyond what you know.
- Don’t play politics or live with hidden agendas, but stand up and say what you believe.