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Navigating the Tension of Competing Values
Great leaders are value-driven people. They know what they stand for and why. Their values serve as the compass points to guide everyday choices and decisions. By intimately knowing their values, they understand how to behave, react, and engage others without pause or contemplation. They start with their values and figure out everything else as it unfolds.
Unfortunately for leaders, every value can’t be equal. They exist in a hierarchy, constantly in tension, some superior, some subordinate, and some rubbing up against others, causing friction. The hierarchy and tension inherent in holding competing values is a challenge all leaders face. Knowing how one value outranks all others at a given moment is the key to leading with authenticity and conviction.
Consider the tension between valuing both new career challenges and quality time with friends and family. How does a leader reconcile these competing values? Certainly, both matter. Understanding the tension, recognizing the hierarchy, and knowing how one value ranks against the other at any given point in time is the key to leading and living in a way that feels both meaningful and well-spent.
When a leader feels out of balance, they are often grappling with the tension between two conflicting values. That’s not a failure of thinking. It is a challenge to work through. Good leaders recognize the trade-offs and decide which value to privilege in a way that honors what matters most to them at the time.
Getting clear about your values means understanding what is most important to you now. The best leaders navigate the tensions of competing values by clarifying their value hierarchy, not by attempting to satisfy both values to the detriment of both of them.
Good leaders have an acute awareness of their values and what matters most to them. They don’t just recognize their values; they delve into them, test them, and think deeply about how to best express them.
When values are in conflict, they resolve the tension by clarifying the hierarchy in which they exist. At any given moment, one value supersedes all others. Make that decision and the rest of the choices become amazingly clear.