It is erroneous to believe that a leader can lead effectively if the corporate mission and goals do not align with the leader’s personal goals. In fact, leaders leave companies when their personal values clash with the corporate values. In No-Drama Leadership I offer many examples of misalignment and the potential risks companies face if they do not understand how important it is to understand the importance of personal alignment.
It was misaligned values that caused Bob Funk, to leave a company where he had worked for the last seventeen years. “I would have worked there for the rest of my life. The owner was a fine man with strong principles. When he passed away, his son took over the company, and the culture changed,” he said.
The new owner’s values clashed so much with Bob’s that he had no viable choice but to leave and start his own company, Express Employment Professionals. Speaking of his decision to leave his former employer to start his own company, Bob said, “The new owner, the president’s son, was an accountant by trade so the financial statements were the most important to him. What he didn’t realize is that when you’re in business, it’s all about relationships, and good relationships build good financial statements.”
When you do something that is against your values, you are out of internal alignment. When you make a decision that does not match the mission and values stated on the company website, then you are out of alignment in your leadership. Enlightened leaders know how to see the red flags that indicate misalignment both personally and professionally.
Assessing Personal Alignment
Your own discomfort or discontent—that inner knowledge that something is off—can alert you to a lack of personal alignment. It’s common to believe the conflict is due to another person, situation, or circumstance. For example, I often hear high level leaders complaining about their employees. It may be a performance issue or a behavioral issue. But, when I question the executive I find that he or she has never addressed the problem because they don’t know how to have a difficult conversation. The misalignment belongs to the leader, yet the leader uses blame instead of looking inward to see how their own leadership contributes to the problems.
The same is true for employees. Employees blame their boss instead of taking responsibility for helping to create the kind of workplace they want. It’s easy to complain about the company, the employees, the economy, or the weather. The enlightened perspective is to look inside to see what is out of alignment. Sometimes discomfort is a sign to speak up. At other times the discontent is a sign to move on. Sometimes the discomfort means you are not telling yourself the truth, or you have set unrealistic expectations. At other times, the discomfort indicates you are not living your values. To be fully aligned, you need to learn how to listen to your inner voice, to interpret your emotional landscape.
Whether in your organization or in your leadership role where you find misalignment, are only two ways to realign: Tell yourself the truth about the real mission, vision and values and change them to match what you are doing, or course-correct to get back into harmony with the original vision.
Alignment is as much of an inside game as it is an outside result. Alignment is more than what you do; alignment is about who you are.
Marlene Chism is an executive educator, consultant, and author of Stop Workplace Drama, (Wiley 2011) and No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015). She works with executives, and high-performing leaders who want to transform culture in the workplace. To explore opportunities please email firstname.lastname@example.org