Values are the essence of who we are as human beings. Our values get us out of bed every morning, help us select the work we do, the company we keep, the relationships we build, and, ultimately, the groups and organizations we lead.
- Bob Rue
In my leadership training, the exercise to identify my core values was an interesting experience. What came out of the exercise was realizing how hard it is to narrow it down, even to ten! Through these exercises and reflection, I realized just how very much a value-based person and leader I am. At first, I wasn't sure if having such a strong value focus is a good thing or a bad thing as a leader. However, as I read more about the role of values in leadership and the concept of value-based leadership, what I realize is that one of the big challenges is not to try and change my values or who I am, but rather to seek out organizations who hold values that align with my values.
Many of the values very much resonate with me but the following filter to the top of the list both upon personal reflection and from the feedback I've received from those closest to me in my life and work:
My top 5 values in more detail.
Honesty has a number of different meanings for me, from the obvious moral meaning of the word. Still, it also means honestly to myself (integrity) and others through truthfulness or straightforwardness (directness). Honesty also involves being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere. I strive to uphold this value in every interaction I have. My word is my bond. I demonstrate the fairness aspect of honesty through my attempts to bring balance to organizations by advocating for those who aren't in a position to do so themselves.
I actually find humility a little hard to put into words. For me, it is about admitting that I am fallible and not perfect. It is about not feeling there is more intrinsic value in myself than any other person, even if I happen to be in a position of authority or leadership. It is about respect for others as well as oneself. This is important to me because I believe humility is critical for high performance. It is a healthy preoccupation with failure and willingness to accept that one is not always right. Being humble is essential, in my view, to be a safe leader. I believe this is reflected in my behaviour both through how I treat other people and how I embrace the drive to lead a highly reliable organization.
Curiosity embodies both my drive to learn as well as my interest in people. This underpins my interest in understanding more about them and myself. It is what drives my enthusiasm for human factors and self-reflection. Curiosity is important to me because it stimulates me. I believe the question 'why' is one of the most important. Curiosity links very closely with my pursuit of quality. I demonstrate this value in my behaviour through my teaching, leadership, research, and analytic approach to problem-solving.
Duty and service.
Duty & service represents my desire to help and serve others. This is the underpinning of servant leadership. It means putting others before myself. This is important to me because it is one of the things in life which I find most rewarding. I have always been a person who prefers to give a gift rather than receive it. Seeing happiness in others is profoundly rewarding for me. I love being there to help someone and going out of my way to do it well. In my career, this is manifest in my choice of profession in critical care and emergency services. In the ICU, I thrive on being the person whom other physicians and colleagues turn to for help or bail them out of difficult situations. When I started the Critical Care Response Team at Niagara, I made our motto “Always here to help.” In leadership, I strive to serve others (those I lead, my bosses & the organization) to see them be successful. It manifests through my connection with the military and willingness to put myself in harm's way (Haiti, SARS, London Bridge, COVID) to help others.
Quality and excellence.
Quality & excellence refers to my desire to meet a standard. A slogan that represents this for me is “a pigheaded resistance to mediocracy.” This is also very much about problem solving, analysis, and improving. In many ways, I think my pursuit of quality is a manifestation of my sense of optimism. I always think there is hope for adding value, fixing a broken system, a problem can be solved. It is hard for me to say why this is important to me exactly. It is more just how I’m programmed. This is definitely manifest in my behaviour through my interest in patient safety & quality. I also regularly demonstrate this through the standards I set for myself and others.