If you’ve experienced success in your career, chances are you’ve built a great resume. Perhaps it lists educational credentials, various professional accomplishments or prestigious affiliations. But it turns out that even the best of resumes, on their own, leave us somehow unfulfilled and searching for more. Why? As human beings, we are driven by meaning. We crave something more than our professional merits listed on a page.
An article I recently read explored this phenomenon and pointed to the relationship between what author David Brooks calls “resume virtues” and “eulogy virtues” in his book, The Road to Character. Resume virtues might focus on prestige, certifications or metrics. In contrast, eulogy virtues such as compassion, humility, courage and integrity cultivate meaning in our lives.
Lending values to leadership choices
Dr. Todd Hall explains that resume virtues are good “when pursued with wisdom—in the right way and for the right reasons. But they must be built on a foundation of eulogy virtues.” I like to think Hall means that our eulogy virtues have a place in our professional leadership, especially with the choices we make.
Hall introduces four ways to build your character resume, one of which is giving of your authentic self. To do that, he explains you must organize the elements of your life around a larger purpose and commit to that purpose based on your unique talents, motivations and core values. I believe those core values belong at the center of your leadership decisions and the culture you cultivate.
Transparency as an expression of authenticity and sacrifice
During my tenure at Prologis, I began to develop a deep appreciation for transparency and it became a value that guided my important decisions and daily interactions with co-workers. With transparency as my compass, I was communicating with a consciousness of others and a motivation to be my authentic self. Transparency became the fiber of mutually beneficial partnerships and working relationships.
According to Hall, we can find our truest expression of eulogy virtues when we are willing to make sacrifices for them. I recall an expression of these virtues when making an especially difficult leadership decision. It was during a time that called for transparency with the Prologis board of directors before I was CEO. Upon clearing the air about an ongoing issue at the executive level, I announced that I was leaving Prologis. I simply couldn’t be a part of the company’s leadership if they didn’t exhibit the values that were important to me. To my surprise, the board would later recognize the absence of these values and invite me to return as CEO 10 months later.
Do your choices reflect your values?
Whether your expression of values is demonstrated on a large or small scale, it’s important that you exhibit them and lead by example. As 2016 comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to reflect on a year of decisions you’ve made. Ask yourself if your critical choices took place at the intersection of your values. Could your eulogy resume read: Fostered a culture where employees felt respected or modeled integrity? If not, think about what’s vital to you so you can identify your purpose and nurture a culture with meaning. Before long, you’ll build a character resume worth eulogizing.
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