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How Do Your Values Impact Your Leadership?

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General Norman Schwarzkopf once famously described leadership as a “potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”

Strategy is often clear-cut: you inspire a vision, create goals, and execute the necessary tasks. You have a clear measuring stick and, while life and leadership are rarely black-and-white, you have a map with guideposts along the way.

Character, however, isn’t always so well-defined. Our values play a huge role and, if unidentified, you may often find yourself waffling, spinning your wheels, and making inconsistent decisions. On the flip side, clear values lead to clear actions – and powerful leadership.

Zhena Muzyka, founder of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, seemed to know this early. As she vividly shares in her 2014 book Life By The Cup, she began her business out of necessity: a single mother to an infant son with medical issues, she needed a way to pay for his healthcare. She blended her passion for tea, her desire to care for her family, and her core values to form an enterprise.

Zhena experienced lean days familiar to many entrepreneurs. During those times, opportunities arose that perhaps would have significantly increased her revenue and business stature, but would also prove a slippery slope with regard to her values. Time and time again Zhena chose in favor of her values, and now her business – as well as her integrity – thrive.

This book holds many insightful tips for the purposeful professional, including:

Reach out. So many of us “go it alone” or feel that as smart, capable people we should be able to figure everything out. I love that Zhena never pretended to have all the answers, or even most of the answers, but she held her vision high and reached out to others who did. “When we learn to ask for help,” she reminds us, “we allow others to participate in our life and invest in the relationship.” Rather than thinking of asking for help as a burden, we can actually view it as a gift.

Work with purpose. Zhena’s work is an obvious extension of her values and an expression of her purpose. She never waffled on those values, even when it would have been lucrative to do so. She also didn’t get “lost in the weeds” of the day-to-day tasks: “There is no higher purpose or honor in anyone’s life,” Muzyka writes, “than to serve and nourish others. May your days be filled with this knowing.”

Show up. As somewhat of an accidental entrepreneur myself, I can second Zhena’s suggestion that a big percentage of success is just showing up. Planning plays an important role, but at some point we need to dive in. Attend the meeting. Write the draft. Do the work rather than ruminate and overthink. One of my favorite lines in the entire book: “I was moving so fast that fear couldn’t catch me.”

This book unexpectedly snuck into my pile late last year and turned out to be one of my favorites of 2014. I am a full-fledged coffee lover but was even inspired in the beverage arena: I consumed more tea while reading Life By The Cup than the entire year prior! For a heartfelt glimpse into purposeful entrepreneurship, values-based leadership, and succeeding in meaningful work, grab a cup of tea and this book. You won’t be disappointed.

COACH’S CHALLENGE:

What are your 3 core values? If you cannot easily answer this question, conduct a values clarification. One route: Review a large list of values, highlighting those that matter most to you. Continue paring down until you’ve identified the three that resonate deeply with your core and that imbue your decisions, actions, and choices. Values clarification isn’t necessarily easy, but knowing those values makes decision-making (and nearly everything else) much easier.

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