In a recent leadership workshop Karen reached out on private chat and asked me how she could identify her values and how her values link to understanding her value to her team and the organisation.

Great questions!

Do you know your values?

Your values are part of self-awareness and even more so self-knowledge. 


The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” is one of the Delphic maxims and was the first of three maxims inscribed in the pronaos (forecourt) of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi according to the Greek writer Pausanias. The two maxims that followed “know thyself” were “nothing to excess” and “surety brings ruin”. 


As I see it, self-knowledge includes knowing that over time, experience and learning, values may – most likely – change. And,  as the two other maxims state, there’s no value in taking any to excess or extreme, and holding these too tightly and steadfast could be an undoing. 

In high school, I valued sport and competition above all else, including school work! Now I value learning and collaboration, amongst other things.

Your values are like a map. Knowing your values helps you determine what you do, where you go, how you work, how you choose to live. These actions directly impact how others see you, how decision makers perceive you … the value you give to others.

Investing time and effort in knowing yourself, your values included, therefore helps you understand the value you contribute.

Without this knowledge, there’s an avoidance that happens which means neglect of learning, growth, seeing or taking opportunities. In this situation it looks like stewing. Jane was a ‘stewer’ (my new word). Jane talked a big talk, but walked a dawdle. She would want, but not do. She would complain when over-looked but did nothing to better her chances. She was avoided just as much as she seemed to avoid her own self-leadership.

Karen, is not a stewer, I saw her as sitting somewhere between smolder and sputter. Once we dug a little deeper, and with her eagerness to learn more, we discovered she actually knew her values but was doubting herself. The doubt was driven by thinking that values were set in stone.  

Giving yourself permission to contemplate your values, the type of leader you are; what has guided you to the role you’re in today; and the roles or leadership opportunities you want is one activity that leads you to spark your self-leadership.

Great leaders put self-leadership at the heart of success as a leader.

Some contemplative questions for you to consider:


  1. What three words would you use to describe yourself?
  2. What do you think your closest work mates like you for?
  3. What’s the most important career / work relationship that’s sharped your leadership? How has it shaped you?
  4. As a child, what did you want to be when you grow up?
  5. Today, if you could have any role, what would it be?


I’d love to know your thoughts…