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Six Core Values of Empowered Leaders

Success is not a plaque or a dollar sign. It can’t be bought or ascribed. Success is a personal reward borne out of a subscription to one’s core values. 1871 mentor Susan Kuczmarski of Kuczmarski Innovation discusses how the empowered leader of the future will have to embrace six unique qualities that are unknown to many leaders today.


Guest Author: Susan Smith Kuczmarski, Ed.D., Kuczmarski Innovation

For a business to be successful, the company and the individuals who comprise it must be committed to the same values, which unifies the goals of the organization by creating a standardized measure of success. Emerging from our talks and research with leaders, we found that six values define the new core of leadership and form a new definition of success.

Defining the Characteristics of Empowered Leadership

  • Humility means caring more about the relationship than the powerbase. It means learning not be the one who always has the answer, but to be the one who steps aside and lets others provide answers of their own. It’s being able to do that dance—back and forth—and be okay with it. It entails taking risks, making mistakes, embracing failure, and possessing self-confidence. 
  • Compassion means to be in the heart of another person. The closer we are to others, the more we feel or relate to their situation. A leader who is compassionate is generous, supportive, kind and nonjudgmental. It entails being non-judgmental, authentic, and genuine. The best compassion is “active” – not passive. Active forms of compassion include: deep listening and talking, providing recognition, and using descriptive praise.
  • Transparency means being open, straightforward, direct, and having no hidden agendas or secret meetings. It means sharing information—good and bad. The team is able to solve problems because they get to the truth. When transparency is in place, openness, integrity, fairness, and truthfulness permeate an organization or relationship. 
  • Collaboration means working together to reach a common goal. It means leveraging people’s strengths and talents in a way that leads a far-greater result than people try to accomplish the same single-handedly. The result is: the team owns ideas and projects. The mantra is: different people, same values.
  • Inclusiveness means to accept and recognize people’s differences, relish their perspectives, and establish and environment where people feel valued and trusted. You can’t begin to make people feel included if you don’t even know them. Inclusiveness means finding ways to connect with people and managing tasks and job responsibilities to ensure that the team is rewarded.
  • Values-based decisiveness means using shared values as decision filters. Timely, informed and objective decisions are made because values inform and guide the decision making process. When values guide the process, deciding on a course of action is trouble free and effortless. Values serve as a decision-making compass. 

Activating the Seven Steps to Rejuvenate Your Workplace

Our six leadership qualities work hand-in-hand with seven culture-altering steps. While you may not be able to activate all seven steps in your organization, each one that is undertaken will further advance your employees and workplace culture.

  • Reach Out to Serve Others. Start with an other-directed mindset and a service orientation. The first step is to reach out, beyond oneself and one’s organization. Serving others benefits and bridges individuals and organizations. Each of us of can serve. It is a job that should not be delegated to others or brushed away. Giving magnifies our hearts in a way that loosens us up to better communicate, interact, and understand others.
  • Ask, “Who Am I?” We must each get to know our personal values, needs, strengths, weaknesses, and the factors that have shaped our values. Knowing who you are can help to identify activities for personal growth. The work culture should value more than just bottom-line growth and security. It must be a pathway to personal discovery.
  • Ask, “Who Are You?” While individuals in a group must give attention to their own needs and interests, they must also interact with other group members and help them address their needs and interest. Leaders need to spend lots of time with employees communicating, mentoring and coaching. There is nothing more important than building, maintaining and perpetuating relationships, and helping others grow to reach their maximum potential.
  • Find Common Ground. Once a leader has an understanding of the individual, then that leader is able to build relationships connecting individuals. Culture is an amalgam of individuals, who share a common goal. Everyone within an organization needs to play a vital, supportive, and interconnected role. The best model for effective learning is a small, sharing group.
  • Let Professional Passion and Creativity Reign. Let individuals flourish. Employees must experience the freedom to pursue their unique interests, desires, enthusiasms, knowledge, and skills. They must be able to apply them to numerous opportunities and problems within the workplace. The culture shouldn’t be prohibitive. Individuals must be able to work at full capacity. Everyone has a unique genius within, and it can be let out.
  • Root for People. Our leadership approach places focus on encouraging people around us. When we support, promote, and root for others, then it is a win-win situation for everybody. Consequently, we find people far more able and willing to see leaders as facilitators, as peers, and as equals at work. A powerful transformation occurs. Rather than follow a leader, the people now root for others.
  • Leave Some Money on the Table. Negotiating for the last cent or jockeying for the best position or project does not always yield the greatest results in the long-run. It sounds like it would—always trying to optimize. But other people will feel squeezed or sub-optimized after awhile. What’s better is to leave some money on the table. And when making decisions and taking action, values should always be brought to that table. Choosing the financially beneficial or expedient short-term path is not always the best move.

Taken together, these six core leadership values and seven-step prescription create empowered leaders and a compassionately competitive work culture.

About the Author: Susan Smith Kuczmarski, Ed.D. is the author of six books, including Apples Are Square: Thinking Differently About Leadership, a Fast Company Magazine “Best Business Book.” She teaches in the “Creating and Leading A Culture of Innovation” executive education program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School. Her research, speeches, seminars, teaching, and consulting have made her a leading expert in the field of values-based leadership. She is the co-founder of Kuczmarski Innovation (KI), an internationally recognized innovation consulting firm that provides thought-leadership on innovation, culture, and values. KI is home to Chicago Innovation, the year-long series of events designed to educate, connect, and celebrate the innovation community in the Chicago region.

The opinions expressed here by 1871 guest writers are their own, not those of 1871.

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