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On Falling Short

For the past quarter century, I’ve advocated and proselytized Values-Based Leadership (VBL) as the leadership approach that effectively engages, motivates, and develops followers to achieve and sustain consistently high performance.

I’ve described Values-Based Leaders as individuals who display strong character and set an uncompromising example of integrity; people who selflessly serve and raise up others in genuine humility; who show compassion; who are purpose-driven; who demonstrate courage; who always persevere to do the right thing. They are individuals who are self-disciplined, holding themselves and others accountable. They show gratitude and appreciation. They acknowledge the contributions of others…


And then I looked in the mirror.

What a shock it was to reflect on my years in leadership roles only to realize how often I had fallen short of the VBL aspiration … not just fallen short, but at times I acted contrary to VBL principles by behaving, thinking, speaking in ways I would be too ashamed to confess publicly.

Thankfully my introspection, realization, and admission are not the end of the story.

I am not now who I was then. The fact is, Values-Based Leaders are not created by a wave of the wand – rather, they embark on a life-long journey that focuses them outward (for the benefit of others) and upward (for a higher purpose and for the greater good).

Values-Based Leadership is not an achievable destination. It is a viable journey, one in which success is marked by the daily maturation of individuals who commit their lives and their leadership to make their sphere of influence in the world a better place.

Becoming a Values-based Leader doesn’t happen overnight, and for most aspiring leaders, it requires a paradigm shift in the way they manage and lead. As the old saying goes, “What got you here won’t get you there,” i.e. the skills, talents, experience, and education that enable successful ascent of the leadership hierarchy will serve you well only to a point. As one is elevated to greater scope and leadership responsibility, aspiring Values-Based Leaders must mature in their ability to establish purpose, cast vision, create culture, develop relationships, build trust, and foster cooperation.

Becoming a Values-based Leader is both a process and a journey, a journey in which one never fully arrives. At some point in the journey, we each stumble and fall short. We are imperfect human beings, and we willmake mistakes – sometimes, we will do the wrong thing. When we do, we seek and expect forgiveness from others. Likewise, when we find others behaving imperfectly, we should demonstrate the grace to forgive them, stand by them, encourage them, and expect the best from them.

In other words, when we and others fall short, we must each admit our imperfections and mistakes and be willing to exhibit the fortitude to stand back up, brush off the dust and continue the journey.

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