A leader is always learning. When you stop learning it will be difficult to be that person to lead followers and offer a vision for the future. Another important element of a leader is the understanding of who they are as individuals. An initial step for every exemplary leader as they grow into becoming a leader and fulfill leadership roles, is for them to look inwards. This step is critical because the leader must first take the time to understand and learn about their own personal values and beliefs before moving forward as a leader.

For instance, how can you lead a group of followers if you don’t know who you are and your key beliefs? How can you exemplify to them you are someone they should follow if there are inconsistencies in the message you are presenting and your principles don’t guide your actions. In this situation, the follower receives mixed messages. One moment a follower may be in sync with the person they consider the leader and the next moment they can’t relate to them.

Finding Your Voice: Communicating shared values

As a leader works to understand more deeply who they are — they are actually finding their own voice. They are developing ways to express their leadership philosophy in words that represent them and their values, and not the values of someone else they may have read about in a leadership book or someone they are trying to be. This authenticity will reinforce their ability to lead followers.

The leader’s voice becomes even more important in leadership settings because they are leading followers, and therefore represent the voice of the followers (such as individuals serving organizations, committee, employees etc.). They initially express their voice as a leader — their values — and must learn the values of their followers. They do this by reaching out to them, spending time in meetings, visiting with them in small groups, taking that extra time to learn about the values of the individuals which they are leading. Success results when leaders demonstrate they understand and affirm the shared values of the followers and the followers affirm the shared values of the leader. An organization where leader and followers have shared values, is an organization in sync and able to move forward to accomplish its goals.

Following Through: The importance of action

The values and beliefs of a leader are not just expressed through voicing them, leader’s actions are essential. As the saying goes, “If you can talk the talk, you have to be able to walk the walk.” Followers listen to leaders as they voice their values, but they also watch their actions to make sure they are professing what they say they will do. In a healthy, successful, motivated organization/committee/company/farm or ranch, this occurs when all involved adhere to the actions and values agreed upon. However, when consistency between words and actions that represent values are not aligned, cracks begin in the group in question.

In summary, before individuals can lead others, they need to know who they are and the values they cherish. In addition, they must understand the values of their followers and the values these share.