“Values are like fingerprints, nobody’s are the same, but you leave ‘em all over everything you do” – Elvis Presley Fingerprints by Laura on Flickr CC Licence
My values centre on family/friendship, autonomy, authenticity, compassion, learning, work ethic, service, security, wellbeing, nature, art, and having fun. I consider that my professional purpose is to make a difference to people’s lives by helping them develop lifelong learning and information access skills in a socially inclusive way.
One of the most beneficial activities I have undertaken as a professional librarian was to consciously identify and clearly articulate my personal values and my professional purpose. What I mean by values are the things that a person considers most important in their life. Values are the beliefs or principles that you hold most dear. A purpose can be defined as a statement about yourself that guides your personal and/or professional life.
Our values determine the way that we live our lives, they determine how we carry out our professional practice, and when we are in leadership roles, they determine the way we lead. Note that everyone undertakes leadership roles in one way or another, not just those in formal managerial or team leadership positions.
Before I undertook this deliberate activity of identifying and articulating my values I subconsciously knew what was important to me, but only in a vague sense. Some people seem to develop a clear sense of their own values, but my sense of myself was a little blurry. This subconscious way of knowing was fine, and has guided me well throughout my life. But once I took the time to make this way of knowing more conscious and explicit, it took me beyond ‘fine’ and into a realm where I have grown in confidence and self-esteem. Knowing my values provides me with clarity, energy, and helps me act more consistently and makes decision-making easier. This self-knowledge also helped me to define my professional purpose. This is helpful as having a clear purpose will help guide and motivate your decisions and activities in your working life.
Knowing your values can also help define your personal purpose too. For many people, their professional and personal purposes will be one and the same. Great leaders such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Kate Sheppard, Nelson Mandela and Te Whiti o Rongomai are examples of people whose purpose in life was singular, and as a result, super strong. Their passion and achievements arose from strong self-belief and self-knowledge of what was MOST important to them.
In my own small way, by working out what my personal values and my professional purpose are, I think I have become a better library practitioner and have taken steps towards becoming a better leader.
This clarity around my values and purpose has also helped me to develop my ‘authenticity’. Authenticity can be seen as congruence between a person’s values and the way they act. Bill George (2003) believes authentic leaders demonstrate four qualities: understanding their purpose, practicing solid values, leading with heart, establishing connected relationships, and demonstrating self-discipline. Doing the work to define what your values and purpose are is a key step towards being more authentic.
What are your key values, and do you know what your personal and or professional purpose is?
Some resources I’ve found helpful in understanding myself and my values:
Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. London, England: Viking. (Essential reading for all introverts)
George, B. (2003). Authentic leadership: Rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. London, England: Bloomsbury. And all of Daniel Goleman’s other books.
Roberts, S., & Rowley, J. (2008). Leadership: The challenge for the information profession. London, England: Facet.
In tomorrow’s post I will write about the importance of aligning your values and purpose with that of the organisation you work for.