Leadership Values: 14 Core Values of Successful Leaders

Why are values important in leadership? What are the leadership values? I often asked myself these questions early in my career. It always seemed to me I needed some magical force to figure out how to become a better leader, as I thought core leadership values are complex.

It took me a while to realize that we intertwine leadership beliefs and values with personal values. This took me back to my childhood and the upbringing that family provides. Would you believe that we can develop values of a leader as early as that?

While I have done extensive research while preparing for career advancement, I always remind myself that I should take a step back and bring it back to basics. After spending several years in hospitality properties and then in the coaching industry, I have concluded that values of leadership are crucial for the success of each individual.

Whether you are an aspiring leader or a leader that is looking to refresh your leadership core values, I came up with a leadership values list that is based on my experience and feedback from coaching engagements.

Although this list is not ranked in any particular order, there are a few values that I hold close to my heart and live by. Have in mind that this list can be extended and shortened depending on your own personal beliefs. Before we begin, think about what are your most important values in leadership?

1. Commitment

Starting out or pushing for advancement requires dedication and commitment. Successful leaders stay committed as it shows that they care for the people, project and the company. Commitment also shows the willingness to get involved and therefore serves as one of core values of leadership.

As leaders, we can show this commitment in a few different ways. I am a firm believer in an open-door policy. What I believe in even more is that the leaders should be present. Spend time with people you work with and listen to them. Help them understand that you are in it for the long haul.

This also means that you need to make time for your people. Use that time to mentor, coach, and teach them so that when the time comes, they can lead too.

2. Empathy

Feel what others feel. Appreciate, understand, and be willing to appreciate what your people might go through. Empathy should not be mistaken for sympathy. It doesn’t mean that you agree or can relate to the other person. What it really means is that you can understand others and that you’re aware of how their feelings impact them. Do you feel that empathy belongs to core values of a leader?

If you take time to help people and provide them with support to push forward, they will be better able to deal with challenges that are standing between them and their goals.

As you’re helping people, you can start building trust and stronger relations with them. That will lead the entire team and organization towards better collaboration and enhanced productivity.

3. Honesty

A person that is not honest and true to self can never be honest with anybody. I heard someone say this once and it resonated with me ever since. Leaders are often looked upon as role models. If we are to model behavior to our people, honesty is where we can show the first step.

Sometimes, people are afraid of being honest as they are worried about the feelings of others. Sure, I understand the sentiment. Unfortunately, covering up the truth by saying something people want to hear never ends up well in the long run.

Honesty also helps tackle ambiguity, which is a common obstacle that individuals and teams face in today’s society. Displaying and practicing honesty sets you up as a leader that people would want to follow and trust.

If you take time to help people and provide them with support to push forward, they will be better able to deal with challenges that are standing between them and their goals.

As you’re helping people, you can start building trust and stronger relations with them. That will lead the entire team and organization towards better collaboration and enhanced productivity.

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom - Thomas Jefferson

4. Transparency

I got nothing to hide. While this may seem like a mission impossible for many people, I realized that being transparent helped many people understand how true leaders are made. It should be a common practice and one of the important values of a leader to be as open as possible to their people.

You might ask yourself why. The truth will out. Shakespeare had a point when he wrote this in Merchant of Venice. No matter how hard you try to hide the truth from your team, it will eventually surface. I always urge people that add transparency to the top core values of a leader.

Transparency is a great foundation for further developing relations with your people. It will set you apart from others by ways of promoting positive and open communication with your people, teams, and company.

5. Patience

I can’t stop emphasizing patience when I talk about leadership. I wrote an entire article about the importance of patience in leadership, and yet I can’t leave it out of the leadership values list. Patience can lead us to a place of calmness and understanding. Patient leaders don’t just sit and wait for things to happen.

Quite the contrary. They know when to jump into and push, and when to pull the brakes and take time to overcome certain obstacles. This is another one of crucial core values of leadership.

Impatience can lead to anxiety, which can severely affect your health and the health of people around you. Role modeling patience can help your team take their game to the next level. It can further promote collaboration among teams and team members through active listening and understanding.

6. Service

Many people still believe to this day that once you get into a position, people should serve you. I couldn’t disagree more.

Ever since I discovered the philosophy behind the great Robert Greenleaf and his servant leadership style, I never stopped believing that leaders should be in service of others. Service always belongs to the top list of leadership values.

When you put the needs of others first, you set the tone of service culture within your organization. As you serve people, you help them grow and develop as individuals and as teams. It also encourages people to take action as servant leaders prepare for the long -term. To top it all off, it develops a sense of humility.

7. Humility

For me, being humble means setting aside your pride and ego. Humility is sometimes mistaken for acquiescence or consent without objection, compliance. Humility shows true values of leaders if displayed properly.

As humble leaders, we are not shy to ask for help from others as the ego stands aside. We can show to others we care by getting them involved in decision making too.

Humility also promotes an environment where people can learn and develop. You do that by allowing them to take responsibilities that ordinary leaders might keep for themselves.

One thing that I attribute to the success in humility is the fact that I steered away from micromanagement with it. I took a step back, asked people for feedback and encouraged them to take action. Do your best to add humility as one of the most important values of a leader.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself it's thinking of yourself less - C.S. Lewis

8. Respect

Respect needs to be earned. Just because you have a title in your workplace, it doesn’t mean that people must or will respect you. In today’s industry, gen Y and gen Z are influencing the workforce and they look for proof. We can show this proof through the performance of the leader.

Show respect to receive respect. This is a simple rule of reciprocity. Leaders can’t expect their people to give respect if they are treating them with disrespect. Considering having respect on your list of leadership values.

Kristie Rogers, an assistant professor of management at Marquette University, classifies the respect within 2 types. She states that the first type is the respect you show through treating people with courtesy, which is ‘owed respect’. The second type of respect is ‘earned respect’, one leader obtains through their achievements, attributes and similar.

9. Resilience

The ability to recover quickly from setbacks, obstacles and challenges encountered. I firmly believe that this is one of the leadership core values. Why? Because the struggle is real. Leaders of today’s workforce are exposed to more pressure than before due to the increased demand for productiveness and delivery of results.

If we don’t pay enough attention to it, we will be facing burnouts, physical and mental fatigue. This can result in an imbalanced system that can cause negative long-term consequences.

Self-awareness is the key to prospering with resilience. Make sure to allocate time to recover, recuperate and pause, every once in a while. Talk to people close to you and address the pressure, seek feedback and overcome the challenges with support and encouragement.

10. Adaptability

Being an adaptable leader means that you are ready for change. It is crucial to recognize the need to adapt to the ever-changing workplace environment and people. This will allow you to quickly respond to the requirements or demands in certain situations.

Sometimes, this may seem either too easy or too challenging, depending on who is observing. Leaders can develop adaptability by thinking out-of-the-box, stepping out of their comfort zone and plan ahead.

Another way to develop adaptability is to continue learning, regardless of the position or statute. We can achieve this with learning agility, or knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do. This will help you adapt your plans in case of changing circumstances or creating contingencies. Would you agree that adaptability should be on the list of values of leaders?

Action and adaptability create opportunity - Garrison Wynn

11. Wisdom

After several surveys, I noticed that people mention the importance of wisdom in their respective careers. I realized that wisdom plays a more important role in the big picture and the long-term, but it also impacts the short-term goals.

Wisdom comes out of experience or applying knowledge which results in having a better judgment when making decisions. It helps you understand complex problems and break them down into ‘consumable bites’ which can help your team and individuals within prosper.

Wisdom also leads to self-mastery. With that, you will be able to inspire others and model effective leadership, which results in courage and confidence. It is essential to cultivate wisdom within the organization as it will fuel the wisdom in others.

12. Accountability

The ability and willingness to take responsibility for your actions, choices, and behaviors are called accountability. Leaders who hold themselves accountable will not blame others and play the ‘blame game’.

On the contrary, they will do their best to make things right and fix the situation. Sometimes, taking responsibility is putting fear into the eyes of new leaders. Unfortunately, worrying about what might happen can sometimes damage the team rather than act upon things without fear.

Accountability can build trust, respect, and fairness among people in your organization. This, in turn, leads to an engaged workplace. Ultimately, it promotes healthy communication and equality.

13. Authenticity

Are you a sincere leader? Do you allow people to speak their minds and appreciate their input? As an authentic leader, you are expected to do those things. Not because it is written in the standard operating procedure, but because it encourages team members to provide their thoughts and share feedback that is appreciated.

When you live, breathe, and speak according to your personal values, you start leading authentically. This, in turn, allows you to share unique experiences and portray the embodiment of inspiration for others.

If you are an authentic leader, I admire you already. If you are planning or you’re in the process of becoming one, it is not an easy task. It will take you a significant amount of time to get to know yourself and the courage to do what’s right.

14. Integrity

One of the ‘must-haves’ in my leadership dictionary and represents one of the most values of a good leader. Integrity is by far the most challenging value of them all. Whenever I talk about core leadership values and ethics, integrity is the highlighted topic.

If we discuss the importance of integrity in leadership, I always remember the saying ‘walk the talk’ and ‘practice what you preach’. As a leader, if you are in any shape or form trying to inspire others, you should live and breathe integrity.

There are some debates where integrity is seen as consistency in doing what you say, which prompts the wrong definition and interpretation with budding leaders. If we are to look below the surface, we can see the crossover that will make the integrity complete.

I am talking about morality. With it, integrity becomes more than just value. It is the encompassing piece that completes the values puzzle and gives meaning to who we are as leaders.

Why are values important in leadership?

Every time I look into or think about the leadership based on values, I realize the difference made in my life with true values. Some people might have a unique approach to this topic. Looking deeper into each of these values of a leader can uncover a plethora of resources needed for developing leaders.

While it took me some time to come up with this list, I was and still am a firm believer in values-driven leadership since the beginning. It helps me keep my feet on the ground and see things clearly whenever I’m in doubt.

How about you? Do you believe that values make the leader? What are your most important values in leadership? Let me know in the comments below.

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this article, which means if you make a purchase after clicking on one, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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John Todorovic

John Todorovic

I help aspiring and existing leaders improve their skills through effective coaching.

As a restless knowledge seeker, I love acquiring new knowledge on a daily basis through various types of research techniques. All this aligns with my life's mission: sharing knowledge is a privilege and an obligation.

28 Responses

  1. It is often thought that confidence is a natural-born aspect of any business leader. However, we think that this could not be further from the truth. While confidence is necessary for those in a leadership role, we find that this quality can be cultivated through practice and patience.

  2. The above factors are so critical in leadership — the best leaders exemplify these qualities in their every day example. Transparency, empathy, adaptability, etc.- – this article is a great reminder of what to strive for.

  3. Of all the leadership values you describe here, I feel as though honesty is the one missing the most these days. I think it is highly underrated by most executives, if not altogether forgotten.

    1. People tend to forget to go back to basics every now and then. That is why I choose to write a brief reminder that we should always consider these essential skills. Thanks Simon.

  4. Values are very important when it comes to leadership. However, when we look at today’s leaders of the world, I can barely see any of these values in them and probably this is why we are in such a mess.

    1. It’s unfortunate that we have to witness such a situation in our society nowadays. While it will keep happening, we can strive to improve ourselves and others around, every single day. Thank you Joanna.

  5. Taking responsiblity for yourself and mindset is key! Willing to take critisms and other people’s ideas and seeing the strengths in others in your team! Great post!

  6. Values definitely make the leader. All of the ones you mentioned are important but I think empathy gets overlooked sometimes. Being able to relate to those you are leading goes a long way.

    1. It’s challenging to see what is happening in today’s world. Together, we can share our knowledge and help more people understand. Thank you for your time.

  7. These really need to be taught in business school. Humility and accountability really stand out to me. To be a leader, you don’t have to always be right.

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