I've been working with Priority Learning for quite some time, but unlike the other members that make up our staff, my job doesn't have a lot to do with the core of their business, which is giving people the tools they need to become great leaders. As a web developer contracting out my services to Priority Learning, I play a different role. It's a lot more technical, behind the scenes and is done primarily at home alone on my computer. When I first became exposed to the materials and learning principals, I would often think… “Wow, this is great, but it doesn't apply to me because I don't supervise others.” Over time, however I changed my thinking. I realized that I am a leader because we are all leaders. From our personal morals and values, to the way we raise our children and take care of our family and even our work ethic, we are all an example to others, and therefore, we are all leaders. That is why for the next several months I will be writing a three part series on how everyone, even someone who is not in a management position, leads by example.
Our personal values are the beliefs and philosophies we use to help us make decisions. They are why most of us go back to the grocery store and pay for the item the cashier missed while checking us out and why we stop to hold the door open to help someone who is struggling to carry a package into a building. Most people don't put a lot of thought into their own personal values and we sometimes fail to realize how much our values have been inspired by the leaders that have touched our lives.
Before I sat down to write this article, I started to think about the people who have motivated me to become a better human being. There are a lot of people who have contributed, my parents of course have had the largest impact, but there have been many others as well. One person who sticks out is my husband. When we met, one of the first things I took notice of was just how far out of his way he would go to help others. He is always there to offer support even if the person in need isn't someone he is particularly close with. As we spent more and more time together, I started to notice how much his behavior was influencing my own decisions. I put more value now into helping others than I once did all because my husband has been leading by example. I asked him who it was that moved him to begin helping others because I was expecting there to be one tremendously influential person who made a big difference. I was a bit surprised when he thoughtfully listed about 6 or 7 people who had lived and worked within his community. I'm sure most of them would not think of themselves as leaders and would be astonished to learn how much of an impact they had.
People often think of personal values as, well, just personal. But I would argue that they are equally important in business. As someone who is self-employed, I am extremely aware of how my own personal values and the values of my clients have affected my business. Typically for any company, there is a large amount of competition and people have many choices when they are looking to purchase products and services. Whether we are aware of it or not, these choices have much to do with our personal values. For example, when I need mulch for my garden, I am aware that I could probably save a little money going to Home Depot, but I head down to my local Plummer's hardware store instead. Personally I put a great deal of value in buying locally. I also enjoy the fact that the staff is incredibly friendly and they go out of there way to give me the best customer service. Because they have such a high standard when it comes to personal values, I am a loyal customer. Companies like Plummer's and Priority Learning have inspired me to try to always go the extra mile with my own clients. When one of them has a question or problem, even if it's not directly related to their website, I take the time to get them the information they need and I don't send them a bill afterwards. This added service has helped me gain a competitive edge and in the end, I make more money, not less because I'm willing to give something of myself for free. Who knows, in lending a hand to my client, I may have helped someone else indirectly because it is likely that their appreciation will cause them to help someone else.
Personal values are vital in leadership because they not only affect the quality of our own lives but the lives of those around us as well. If your values are such that stealing and hurting others is an acceptable thing to do, you are most likely going to end up in jail or experience some other negative consequence. What's worse is that you may have led someone else in your life to take a similar path. If you value helping others, like my husband, chances are you have a lot of positive people around you willing to lend support when needed. What I would like everyone to take away from this article is that we are all “leaders”, because in everything that we do, we are setting an example for others. In a nutshell, the first step to becoming a great leader is striving to become a great person.
Milly Welsh is the Priority Learning webmaster and Owner/Operator of Zebralove Web Solutions, a web development company located in southern Maine.
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