“On Living Out Your Core Values” – read the latest blog by Cresswood president, Ryan Butzman

About a year ago, I read a quote that powerfully grabbed my attention and really made me think about leadership.  It said, “Love is less of a sentiment and more of a commitment to a way of being with others.”  When I read this, it felt like I had been struck by a bolt of lightning.  You see, when I grew up, I was always taught that the definition of love was all about our feelings, that it was this purely sentimental and emotional thing.  Webster’s dictionary defines love as, “strong affection for another”, “affection and tenderness felt by lovers”, and finally, “warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion”.  What all of these definitions confirm is that our thinking about love is all wrong.  Let me explain why.

Once I was employed with an organization that had remarkable core values all neatly tied to a servant leadership style of management.  Everywhere you walked in the facility you would see signs, banners, and information that spoke about the company’s commitment to respect, teamwork, and personal empowerment, as well as all kinds of stuff advertising that the company was founded on a purpose larger than profit.  Yet after all the hype, one thing eventually became clear to me.  There was a painful disconnect between what the company said it was and what it was really like in the day-to-day grind.  All of the fancy banners, all the warm fuzzy sentiments couldn’t white-wash the obvious fact that these core values on the wall weren’t manifesting in the hearts and minds of the folks inside those walls.  This is what hypocrisy is, and why it leaves such a powerful bad taste in your mouth once you experience it.

So, we need to ask ourselves what went wrong here?  To me, at the end of the day it is really about seeing love and other guiding principles for your relationships not as feelings but as actions.  Love, respect, integrity, and the like need to become verbs, that’s the only way that these become tangible to the people we interact with and lead.  What truly matters about love isn’t the feelings you have inside, it’s how it becomes manifested in your actions and words, in the real and tangible ways that actually impact other people and improve their lives.

It is so much more important for leaders to ask ourselves, “What does love, or respect, or passion look like?” and avoid getting caught up in all the internal emotions and feelings.  This is true because if the people you lead cannot see these core values in action, or feel the impact from how you live them, then they lose all their power and potency.  They just turn into so much fancy wallpaper and marketing nonsense.  Leaders must always remember that those we lead see where the rubber hits the road and know it’s all just a sham if they aren’t treated as verbs.