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The value of values

A leader without clear values is like a yacht without a rudder. Watch Paddy Upton explain.
PADDY UPTON: Values are qualities that arise in the top left quadrant of the leadership and performance landscape discussed last week, which was introduced in more detail in the course on player-centred coaching. They are the invisible, intangible qualities that lie uniquely within the invisible inner world of the leader or coach. Values define what our priorities are– what’s important and valuable in your life. They are the standards, principles, and qualities that serve as our guiding light, ideally towards living your best life. Whether you believe in them or not, agree with them or not, or know yours or not, they exist. You already have them, and they directly influence your effectiveness and impact as a person and the work you do.
A leader or coach without our clear values is like a yacht without a rudder. They’ll be pushed one way and then the other, controlled by the wind, by the strongest and most popular voices or influences at the time. This week, I will, maybe a little controversially, introduce the idea of higher and lower-level leadership and coaching values. I’ll suggest that not all values are equally valuable to you as leader, contrasting those that’ll have a greater likelihood of guiding impactful leadership and a life well lived, and those that might undermine your effectiveness and, ultimately, your joy in life.
The premise here is that when our behaviour and decisions are aligned with our higher values, our personal and professional life generally works with all the ease and flow that’s available at that time. When our decisions and actions don’t line up with our values, or are aligned with so-called lower-level values, both our professional and personal life can be stressful and has a less likelihood of working as well as they could. The idea of placing a judgement on values, on regarding some is higher and others as lower level, might be seen as controversial by some. And certainly, not everyone will agree with or even like this notion.
The reason I choose to risk putting this view into an open or public space is because I want to serve your coaching and leadership development as best I can. For me, the value of serving others, or serving you learning, is more important than being liked by everyone or having everyone agree with me. Thus the act of putting this view out there aligns clearly with one of my core values. An assumptions I’m making here is that the leaders and coaches role in some shape or form is to positively influence others and the system their leadership impacts– to leave the system in a better place as a result of the intervention.
Based on this assumption, below-the-line values and their associated behaviours are those that have a better chance of undermining people or the system and thus the leader or to themselves. These lower-level values and behaviours are often associated with the leader being more focused on their needs, wants, and desires than those of the people they’re leading. A higher-value or above-the-line value and their ensuing behaviours are those that carry a greater than not chance of delivering a positive impact– of adding value to people or the system. More on these above-the-line and below-the-line values as we progress through this week.
A leader without clear values is like a yacht without a rudder.
Values are the principles or standards important to the way you live your life and which inform your decisions and behaviour. For example, if you knew your friend stole a t-shirt from your company storeroom, and your boss asked if you knew who did it, your response might be determined by which value is more important to you: friendship or honesty.
You might make the decision to tell the truth or not to your boss without explicitly articulating which value is prioritised – and you might have made a different decision if the t-shirt had been stolen by someone you didn’t like. A different value might have taken priority in that situation.
We are driven by our values whether we’re clear about them or not, whether we’ve articulated them or not, whether we’ve ever thought about them or not.
My argument is that it’s best to be able to articulate, at least to ourselves, the values that drive us, that impact our decisions and interactions with others.
The focus for this week is on values – on how they interact with our ego, the place they play in the legacy we want to leave and as a means of developing our own self-awareness.
I might be a little controversial this week: a result of my own values and the importance I place on serving others’ learning and growth over the importance of being liked or having everyone agree with me. Doing this in a global learning environment such as this FutureLearn platform could be seen as risky, but I have to act in accordance with my own values: that level of integrity is important to me.
Across the week you’ll be encouraged afresh to consider what’s important to you as you work to serve others.

Your task

In the video I introduce higher- and lower-level leadership values.
Share your experience with higher- and lower-level leadership values and the importance and benefit to your coaching of categorising values in this way.
Let a peer know how their response has contributed to your deepened understanding of highers and lower-level leadership values.
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The Self-aware Coach

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