Leaders – never forget where you’re coming from

Leaders - never forget where you’re coming from

Your values shape who you are, and how you lead.

If you are a Take That fan you will recognise the latter part of the title of this blog. It is the title of one of their songs. Never forget where you’re coming from. I am a bit of a fan of their songs, and in particular, that song. For me, it is an anthem about not forgetting where you come from and what you stand for. For anyone in a leadership position, these are very important principles.

Your values provide the bedrock of who you are and how you behave, especially as a leader. The earliest research on leader effectiveness concluded that character and integrity were as important as capability in a leader. This implied that an internal ethical and moral core was an integral part of leader effectiveness.

Perhaps it is worth a quick reminder of how personality and character differ. Personality revolves around image creation, public relations, communication and management. It is focussed on how to appear to be. Character revolves around integrity, compassion, contribution and humility. It is focussed on how to actually be. Stephen Covey emphasised this point, ‘The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say, or what we do, it is what we are.

Most of us will have seen the human ‘iceberg’ metaphor image where the bit we see above the water represents our behaviour and the much bigger bit below the water, unseen, represents our values, beliefs and our world view. But where do our values come from?

How are values formed?

To a large extent our values are formed in 3 stages. Up to the age of seven, we are like sponges, absorbing everything around us and accepting much of it as true, especially when it comes from our parents. The critical thing here is to learn a sense of right and wrong, good and bad.  Between the ages of eight and thirteen, we copy people, often our parents, but also others. Rather than blind acceptance of their values, we test them out to see if they work for us. At this age we can be very impressionable. The critical factor here is who we choose to mix with. Between 13 and 21, we are very largely influenced by our peers as we develop as individuals. At this stage we may even look for ways to get away from the earlier programming, we naturally turn to people who seem more like us.

Other influences at these ages include the media, especially those parts which seem to resonate with the values of our peer groups.

So, what has all this got to do with Take That? Everything. Last weekend I    watched a documentary on catch up TV about Take That, which was reflecting on their meteoric career and highlighted some of their most recent activities.

There was an incredibly moving clip of the band visiting a choir, which had me in captivated and in tears. This was no ordinary choir, its members were all in some way, devastatingly affected by the Manchester Arena bombing in which 23 people died and more than 800 were wounded.

The choir had formed to provide a place of solidarity and friendship for those traumatised by the tragic event and provide a place to heal through the power of singing. They continue to sing, to this day.

The choir had no idea they were about to have visitors and were rehearsing oblivious to the fact that Take That were waiting outside listening to their beautiful, harmony filled, rendition of Never.

As you can imagine the place erupted when Gary, Mark and Howard entered the room and joined in the singing. It was an astonishing moment, truly demonstrating the very best of human beings. Not only had Take That never forgotten where they had come from, they had gone back and joined the people from where they came from because it was important to them. The impact was incredible not only for the choir but also for everyone watching.

The empathy and humility they showed is a powerful lesson to all leaders. Never forget where you’re coming from. It’s not what you say, it’s not what you do, it’s how you make people feel. That is the true measure of your leadership.

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