Last month I was fortunate enough to spend three days at the Within retreat (many thanks to Automattic for the generous sponsorship). I had never at any point in my life taken much time to reflect and take stock of where I am professionally, let alone personally. The pace of my life never really afforded me the luxury. Like many people my age in Tech, I ended up on my path not through deliberate intention but through the need to find a job post-college that paid the bills.
And so I have found myself in my forties, at my first job in Tech, operating at a high-level, and thinking about what it means to live and lead with integrity. Which makes me think about what a value system can mean not only to my life but to an organization. Reflecting back and looking forward, I am fortunate now to think intentionally about where I want to be, how I wish to behave, who I want to surround myself with, and how best to lead. My time at the retreat was the perfect time to engage in mapping out my core values are as a person and in turn, how I can leverage that system as a leader.
Like many things, a value system has a core foundation, but over time, it changes as you move and grow. I believe all of these systems have been in place for me my entire life, but by naming them now, it allows me to loosely frame them around a vision for living and leading with integrity. I do this knowing that I will continue to move and grow and change and that those around me will continue to inform this vision, test it, and evolve it.
1/ Curiosity first
Listening is a highly undervalued superpower. Making an effort to really listen involves taking yourself out of the equation, not always easy but essential when thinking about how to mentor vs. direct. Caring personally means not only being able to be candid and direct but to make room for hearing the things you might not want to hear but need to.
2/ Lead with courage
Venturing places you have never been before takes courage. Running into the face of ambiguity has never frightened me because I have enough confidence in myself to know that when I get there, I can leverage everything I know to figure it out. However, essential to note that for most people, this is not a comfortable mode of operation. For that reason, act with consideration.
3/ Never apologize for ambition
Transformational work can often feel like being a bull in a china shop. However, being told something is “too ambitious” can be veiled and often times, gendered language. Make no apologies for setting the bar high and continuing to expect excellence from yourself and your peers.
4/ Grace in the face of adversity
Doing the hard work is just that, hard. Be honest (and kind) with yourself, share what makes sense to open up the lines of communication with others often experiencing similar issues, and approach difficulties with openness. There is so much to be learned from your community, and even more importantly, there is support.
5/ Ferocity tempered with kindness
My daughter likes to talk about what animal each person in her family is. She tells me I am a Tiger (and not a tiger mom) because of my ferocious love, loyalty, honesty, and grit. I was recently told that living with integrity means walking away from something important to you towards something you stand for. Make no exceptions for high expectations in all aspects of living and leading with integrity. But do so with loving-kindness. Leading with kindness is often the uncommon way, but as Fred Rogers said so eloquently:
There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.