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steps, journey, path

Defining Your Values is the First Step in Self Leadership

Even Stars Need Coaches!

Become a leader that you'd be proud to follow. Reach out today for a complimentary Wayfinders Discovery call to learn how.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines values as “the principles that help you to decide what is right and wrong, and how to act in various situations.” In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown defines values as a way of being or believing that we hold most important.

Why are values important?



Values are the only route to authenticity. They are the very first step in
self leadership. Your values are the foundation of integrity – you have to
know what you stand for and what you stand behind in order to know what you
stand against. If the values you are trying to uphold are not your own –
but someone else’s – you will never be able to be consistent in word and

In other words, you can’t do what you say if you don’t know what you
believe. In the long run, you can’t do what you say if you don’t believe
what you’re saying. Saying what you believe and doing what you say are the
foundation of living with integrity, authenticity, and self-leadership.

Values are the deepest level of our personal programming. Our values define
what we believe is most important to us. In that way, we can use them to
determine how we spend our time and evaluate whether the time we are
spending is time well spent. Values act as both a filter to determine which
tasks and activities deserve your highest and best attention and as a
framework to construct a meaningful career and legacy. As you take the
first steps in self leadership, your values will help you explain your
choices and why you made them.

steps, journey, pathDiscovery

Discovering the fundamental beliefs that guide
your decisions and actions will expedite your path
to success and significance. Your values will give you
the courage to navigate difficult situations and
make tough choices. Values are your personal bottom line.
They influence every aspect of your life – moral judgments,
commitments to personal and professional goals, the way you respond to others.

When you are clear on your personal values and how you live them out,
you are better prepared to make choices based on principle – including deciding
whether the values of your organization align with your values. If they do,
you can go “all in” and invest your time and energy into living out your values
as a leader in the organization. If not, you may decide that your talents and
energy are best spent elsewhere.

Even after you’ve mastered self leadership and started leading others, your
values act as a beacon on the horizon and a key asset in times of darkness
or ambiguity. They provide clarity in times of ambiguity and direction
during times when you feel rudderless.


But, you can’t live out values you can’t name. Putting words to your values
is the first step in living them out. My mom always said, “Words have
power” and that’s never been more true. In her most recent book,
Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown explores how the language we use shapes
not just how we communicate with others but also how we experience them ourselves.

This underscores why naming our values accurately is so important. Being
able to name precisely what it is that we hold most important creates an
awareness that is the first step in being able to live that out as a way of
being. When the language for our values is clumsy, overly broad, or
inaccurate it can lead us to misunderstand ourselves and make it much
harder to say what we believe and live out what we say. The language we use
shapes our experiences from our values to relationships to leadership.

Click below to uncover your values
using an exercise I adapted from
Brené Brown’s book Dare to Lead.

Values Exercise

Before you can be a leader of others, you need to know clearly who you are and
what your core values are. Once you know that, then you can give your voice
to those values and feel comfortable sharing them with others. – Alan Spiegelman

Getting clear on your values is the first step in your leadership journey.
Before you can lead others with authenticity, you need to know what you
stand for, what’s important to you, what your non-negotiables are, how you
want to show up, and what standards you hold for yourself.

Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we
practice them. We walk our talk—we are clear about what we believe and hold
important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and
behaviors align with those beliefs.

What are your core values?  corevalues

Even Stars Need Coaches!

Become a leader that you'd be proud to follow. Reach out today for a complimentary Wayfinders Discovery call to learn how.

Sarah-Nell Walsh

Sarah-Nell Walsh is an executive coach, former attorney, and Founder of Wayfinders, LLC. Equal parts big-hearted cheerleader and bold challenger, she works with ambitious professionals, executives, and lawyers who want to perform at the top of their game. Wayfinders has a business development coach for lawyers, a leadership coach for executives, and a transition coach for professionals. We work with all our clients to make their desired impact on their organizations, their families, and the world.

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