Do you understand how your ideologies shape you as a leader? Our belief systems, developed in childhood, have a profound effect on how we lead others. It is important to understand our inherited and cultivated belief systems so that we can be effective leaders who inspire teams and motivate growth.

Our childhood experiences shape who we are. It is in the developmental stages of life that we learn social connectedness and emotional responses. It is those responses that lead to actions, which ultimately develop our behaviours, habits and character. For decision-makers to act from a place that reflects their values, they need to first understand what their core values are. For those who have never taken the time to assess what those values are or why they hold those views, inconsistency and self-doubt are likely to show through when difficult decisions must be made.

Your character is developed based on your core values. We make decisions, good or bad, personal or professional, using our core values as our basis. Let’s create an example:

You are asked to complete a project that clashes with a prior personal commitment you’ve made, such as meeting a friend for dinner. You know your friend will understand if you need to postpone and your boss is counting on you to be a team player in this instance. What would you do?

The only correct response is the one that aligns with your ideologies and values. If you value your career and accomplishments you are likely to cancel your social engagement. However, if your core values are focused on friendship, social connection and reliability, you would choose to keep your social engagement. It is integral to the character of the individual to opt for the choice that reflects their dominant values, it helps build character and offers stability.

True leaders do what they say and stand by their decisions in the face of adversity. A leader who is taking action based on their core values will be better equipped to face adversity head-on and lead a team through difficult times because they believe in what they are doing.

One well-known leader who is an example of living your values is Bill Gates. When it became evident that his success and financial security was assured, he and his wife, Melinda Gates, committed to philanthropy. They decided to improve living conditions for children in third-world countries, where they learned that many children were still dying from diarrhoea. After researching why children were dying of preventable illness, Gates learned that sanitation was the core issue. He took measures to invite research and development teams to build toilets that could function in the conditions of the country that had water and electricity shortages to consider. After more than 6 years, numerous trials, meetings and millions of dollars, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was able to begin building real sanitation solutions.

This shows that commitment driven by core values is resilient. Leaders who are assured of their moral contribution will be flexible and committed to finding solutions despite the odds. Such leaders inspire others who align with the same values. All such people will feel fuelled by the desire to complete a project that aligns with their values.

However, leaders do not act alone. Communication is the key to developing solutions that are creative and long-lasting. Self-assured leaders are open to suggestions, they actively listen to others and they continue to learn from others as they seek answers. When Bill Gates was asking researchers and inventors to contribute to the foundation’s goal of developing sewage solutions, it was Melinda Gates who was focused on the human aspect of development. Women in the villages that were to receive the toilets and septic systems said that they would not use the technology if it did not offer privacy and space. These simple needs would mean the difference between a product that would be useful and one that would fall into disuse. When leaders are willing to actively listen they learn more about what they are doing, how the solution could work and how to work with others’ core values too.

Learning more about who you are and what your core values are will help you to become a leader who inspires others and makes consistent decisions. When you make consistent decisions, the outcomes become more predictable and the future of your business is also easier to foresee. If you take the time to define your core values, without judging yourself, you will learn more about your character, your expectations and your drive.