The Absolute Best Reason for Bringing Values to Leadership

by  Lisa Petrilli  |  Leadership Development

I am very blessed to have CEO Connection as one of my clients.

It’s an organization connecting CEOs of companies with more than $100 million in revenues and I spend time with the CEOs early on in their membership as Co-Chair of the Membership Committee.

One of the perks of the job is that I am able to attend the annual CEO Boot Camp that takes place in Chicago every November, with this year’s event taking place earlier this week.  An intimate group of CEOs from companies around the world, representing some major brands – and some you’ve never heard of – gather to share insights and experiences that will enable them to be stronger leaders.

Over time I’ll be sharing with you some general nuggets of wisdom that were unearthed during the course of the event.  The one I wanted to share first particularly struck me as we were discussing what kinds of skill sets CEOs look to hire.

The nugget was this, “I hire for values more than skills because that way I know what they believe in.  I look for aspiration instead of ambition because it’s more pure.”

Never had I heard a more resounding testimonial for values by someone at that level of an organization – one that didn’t sound like company-speak.

He wants to know what the people working with him genuinely believe in and he wants their intentions to be pure.

Though we did not further discuss this as a group I’d like to posit the following:

  • Knowing what your team member believes in and that their intentions are of the highest repute enables you to trust them
  • Being able to trust and be trusted is a requirement for highly effective teams and organizations
  • As a leader, letting your followers see the truth about what you really believe in enables them to trust you
  • If your followers trust you, they’ll be more likely to follow you with conviction
  • What you really believe in is the heart – the North Star – of your larger vision

All of which led me to deduce that bringing your values to your leadership approach – and letting others see who you truly are and what you believe in – may be your greatest predictor of success.

What has your experience been?  Do you hire for values and if so, how has it impacted your organization? I’d be honored to hear from you…

Photo is first light by paul (dex).

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What People Are Saying

Susan Mazza  |  08 Apr 2011  |  Reply

As you point out Lisa trust and values are inextricably linked. And unless we consciously explore our values and beliefs with others we are left to develop trust based on a feeling we can’t quite put our finger on rather than having access to building (and repairing) trust mindfully. I think we also have to allow for a diversity of values among the people who work with and for us.

We tend to be drawn and more naturally trust people who have the same values as we do and surround ourselves with those people. This opens us up to perceptual blindness which can inhibit our ability to communicate effectively with a broader audience as well as make good decisions for the whole.

Lisa Petrilli  |  08 Apr 2011  |  Reply


Beautifully said. I think what you are ultimately getting at is how critical it is for a leader to genuinely know their team, and for them to be open to having a diverse team with diverse values and thus diverse perspectives from which the team may learn and grow.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts – I sincerely appreciate it!

Deb Costello  |  08 Apr 2011  |  Reply


I could not agree more about the relationship between values and trust. I think most people have values, but sometimes don’t take the time to both define what they are clearly and then apply them in our daily lives. For example, I bet that most people think that compassion is a good thing. But it is not always a core value, a guiding principle in a person’s life. If we don’t actually define it as such for ourselves, then when faced with a decision in which we could act with compassion or not, we might not. We have to really DEFINE our values first and then APPLY them consistently. When we do so, our behavior is consistent and fair and the trust that follows in inevitable.

Thank you for reminding me of this important idea.


Lisa Petrilli  |  08 Apr 2011  |  Reply


I appreciate how you really lay out for the readers how to truly execute this idea in their companies – thank you so much for that. I agree with you, we must not just have words but a deep understanding of what they mean and what they look like in action as our first step to seeing them brought to reality on a daily base in our organizations.

I genuinely appreciate your insights, Deb. Thank you for taking the time to read and to share. All the best!

Chery Gegelman  |  13 Apr 2011  |  Reply

Lisa, I love this line in your post! “What you really believe in is the heart – the North Star – of your larger vision.”

A friend of mine included something he called “A Stand” in his business plan. When I asked about it, he emphasized how important it was to him that he had articulated to himself and his employees what they stood for, before they were put in a position that may cause any of them to make inappropriate choices. The things he chose to list in “The Stand” were not the run of the mill “values list” that is printed and placed on a wall to collect dust. They were uncommon, & well-thought out. They made a huge difference in creating a very special culture for his organization, and greatly impacted my own business planning.

Lisa Petrilli  |  16 Apr 2011  |  Reply


I absolutely love this idea! What resonated with me was your description of what went in the stand as “uncommon” and well thought out. I can imagine that in order to help the individuals within the organization make appropriate decisions that it was written in language that was easy to understand and implement, rather than the lofty language of those often-dusty lists. :)

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me and the readers, Chery – it is most sincerely appreciated!

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