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What we create in business and in our personal lives continues to vibrate out, either in small or big ways.
David Brooks, an opinion writer for the New York Times, once said that to impact people powerfully, leaders need to pursue the development of moral depth. That’s a bold statement. What does Brooks mean by this and how does it apply to increasing the impact you have on others as a leader?
Essentially, we live out two competing value sets: resume values and legacy values. Resume values center around achievement, competing and winning. Legacy values are displayed in how you engaged people, how you lived your life and how people remember you.
My dad, a successful CEO, passed at age 90. When the family gathered and reminisced about who he was, the themes brought up were love, sacrifice, perseverance through suffering, a “never give up” spirit, dedication to family and integrity in all things. My dad always taught us that any time you make a choice to compromise what you know is right, even if it doesn’t hurt anyone else, you diminish your soul. These were my father’s legacy values and they were firmly implanted in my own character and view of the world.
Legacy values vector at a different plane than resume values, and if underdeveloped, they leave a leader stranded in the shallows of moral character. We’ve all met these stranded leaders. Work is all about winning. Certainly, resume values can be critical for a life well lived, but if that’s your core focus, it leaves a hollow feeling in the connection with others. People with moral depth can feel the lack of heart, the feeling of “soullessness.” Stakeholders in your business today care not only about what you do, but how you do it. If you get results and leave shattered relationships, then you are missing the core purpose of what your business can achieve — both a great return for the owners and a great return in the lives of every person you touch.
The best entrepreneurs I have met are those who integrate resume values and legacy values, first within themselves, and then within their organizational culture. Here are three ways you can integrate and live out both sets of important values in your organization and life.
1. Give back to the community.
As the leader of an organization, consider encouraging and even incentivizing your employees to make positive contributions to the community or those less fortunate. Some community-minded companies set up programs where the company matches each employee’s social giving. Others select significant nonprofit projects and causes to rally around together. In either case, the company and its employees make real world positive change in their community.
2. Enrich the lives of those your serve.
It is common knowledge that a company serves its customers. There is no debate here. However, companies often forget they also serve other equally important groups, one of the most important being its own employees. If you are part of the organization’s leadership, consider how you can make the lives of your employees better. Are you able to make their time in the workplace more enjoyable and effective? Are you able to encourage their personal growth and goals? Are you able to provide services to make their family lives more successful and enriching?
To identify how best to serve your employees, consider stepping out of your office and onto the front lines of your company’s operations. Give your employees the chance to speak up in an open forum without recourse about their experiences and to voice their needs to you. Then listen and act. Develop programs that will most benefit your employees and improve their life experience.
3. Enhance your organization’s purpose.
Leaders can be passionate about doing great things and about being great people. For leaders who live out both legacy and resume values, going the extra mile for fellow team members, customers and the community is the norm. Giving both your head and heart to these important stakeholders is standard practice. For these leaders, there is no other choice but to pursue relentlessly a depth of moral character grounded in legacy values, and as a result, to build a powerful memory that echoes into the future.
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