Written by Daniel Latto in Latest News

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There’s been a lot of talk about values-driven leadership—and I believe it’s not only the best way to lead, but the only way to be authentic and stay centered in the midst of chaos. And, frankly, it’s a highly successful way to manage your work-life conflict and improve your performance. The growing buzz about mindfulness meditation, as evidenced by the recent New York Times feature (“Mindfulness: Getting Its Share of Attention”), is all about quieting the chaos—and improving your ability to identify and act in accordance with those values. As a leader, there’s almost nothing more important than that.

When you’re authentic and value-driven, you choose to align your actions with what you believe in. And those who are unsure find themselves in sticky situations because they don’t know who they are or whom they’re trying to please. Beyond that, they end up reacting to stress, rather than choosing their responses (another thing mindfulness meditation can address).

Marissa Mayer caught a lot of flak for doing away with Yahoo’s work-from-home policy, but her guiding value was that innovation happens in the office. It wasn’t about tit for tat; she wasn’t governing by popular vote. She stood by a value and made decisions in keeping with it, period.

Here’s what it means to be authentic and value-driven:

Acknowledge the negative—and rise above it.

In my recent post on Forbes, I said that positivity does not rule the day or make you a better leader. It’s not enough to try to wrestle your negative thoughts to the ground or straight-up ignore them. Only by accepting and being aware of all the issues and thoughts at hand—positive, negative, and otherwise—can you rise above them. Value-driven leadership doesn’t replace optimism or pessimism; it rises above them both and stays true to what you care about, not just what happened.

Cultivate transparency.

When Skype’s Chief Marketing Officer Elisa Steele was recently interviewed in Marie Claire, she addressed the importance of values-based leadership, “in which you cultivate trust and transparency and do the right thing personally and organizationally,” she said. That means organizing your life not around what you’re afraid of, but what matters most.

When asked (the inevitable) work-life balance question, she said,

“A mistake I made for many years was trying to put up walls between each of my roles: Like, I’m a mom when I’m at home, and I’m a professional at work. But it was a constant struggle. So I just changed my mentality about it, which was so liberating. I’m both of those people every day.”

Embracing all of who she is and what mattered to her was far more productive than thinking “I’m a bad mom” or “I’m disappointing my team.” She’s not trying to hide who she is or pretend one role doesn’t matter or matters more. She’s being true to herself and to those she works with.

Be more than just “yourself.”

In a great post by Forbes contributor Henna Inam, she warns of the glib advice given to far too many people in business: that to get a job or succeed, just “be yourself.” She takes this advice to task, saying that in fact, you need to be a higher version of yourself—not the one who’s emotional or self-limiting because of deep-seated insecurities. Of course you can’t be however you feel like and expect it to make you a powerful leader because, hey, you were being authentic.

She writes, “The real you understands your personal values, wrestles through tough choices, to pursue what’s in the greater good…We often form our identity around our beliefs, our status, our work, our values, our roles, or even the labels around gender, religion, football team, nationality, etc. Yes, these labels do define who we are, until they no longer serve us. Then the “real me” emerges as the silent witness to the labels and empowers us to choose powerfully and be what serves us and the greater good in that moment.”

You won’t simply have “less” stress when you’re grounded in values and authenticity—but you’ll be able to handle it better because you will tackle it with clarity to begin with, and not try to figure out what you stand for in the midst of a stressful situation (which is not the time to be doing it). It goes without saying that what you demonstrate to your team is what will set the tone for your organization.

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