Values-Driven Leadership in a Status-Driven Culture

I AM vs I HAVE Leaders

What does it take to successfully model leadership in today’s current workplace culture? 

Some of the first things that come to mind might be power, confidence, charisma, intelligence, and other such characteristics. However, being a great leader requires more than just the right skills, a series of checklists, or years of experience. 

Today, I’d like to challenge your perception of leadership. Instead of viewing leadership in terms of status, power, or position, I’d like for us to think instead of how we can leverage our leadership positions to serve others. This is not intended to add one more thing to your plate, but to ensure you are successful and significant in a way that matters in the long run. 

Let’s discuss what makes a great leader, as well as how we can become great leaders in our current culture. 

Leadership: The Reputation and Brand of a Person of Values

Being placed into a leadership role doesn’t automatically make you a good leader. To be a good leader, you need more than just talent or charisma. 

A good leader is a person that people will follow; a great leader is a person that people want to follow.

We can think of our leadership as an iceberg. Icebergs appear huge even when looking at them from above the water. However, below the water, an iceberg is ten times more massive than it seems!

In terms of leadership, the 10% of the iceberg that you can see above the water is our skill. Although your skills are easily observed by those around you, they only represent a small portion of who you are, how you think, and what you do. 

The 90% below the water is our character. Remember, it’s what’s below the water that sinks the ship. It doesn’t matter what skills, qualifications, or accolades you have accumulated in your professional life if your character isn’t solid. Much of our influence comes from qualities we cannot see on the outside. Our values exist below the surface, providing self-discipline, emotional security, and our sense of identity.

How do you make sure your character– the unseen 90% of the iceberg that can sink a ship– is good? 

Your values are the things that motivate you to get up in the morning and to commit yourself to excellence; they are the driving force behind what you do. 

Have you thought about your values lately? Take a moment to think about your values and define them. Then, do an assessment of your everyday life. Are you living in a way where you are prioritizing your values? Could the people around you easily identify your values based on your language and actions? 

Combined, your personal authority and your values make you into the leader you are.

The Difference Maker

If you want to be a leader that embodies the role, authority, and character of a great leader, you cannot be prideful, boastful or arrogant. When we think of leadership, we often think of how leadership can serve us as leaders. If we want to be great leaders, we have to think about how our capabilities can serve other people. 

Think of your role as a leader as that of a shepherd. A shepherd’s job is not only to lead their sheep, but to care for them and keep them safe. A shepherd isn’t worried about their status, reputation, or what anyone else thinks of them; their only job is to keep their sheep safe. Sometimes, this means leaving the rest of the sheep for a moment to seek out one lost sheep.

Similarly, a shepherd leader fights for the bottom of the pile. When someone under your care and guidance experiences confusion, hardship, emotional turmoil, or any other type of frustration, your duty is to address their concerns, guide them through, and make sure they are able to confidently rejoin the “flock.”  

As the corporate landscape becomes increasingly difficult to navigate– from changes in work-life balance and a disparity between cost-of-living and current salaries– leadership becomes an increasingly hard task to take on. If you want to be a great leader in today’s culture, you have to have a genuine, value-driven approach to leadership in order to truly thrive.

I AM Leaders In An I HAVE Culture

Think about the language we use so frequently when discussing leadership. One phrase in particular comes to mind: 

What do you bring to the table?

When asked this question, people typically begin to rattle off achievements, skills, qualifications, accolades, and similar such attributes. We think of the things we possess- whether material possessions or personal traits- as markers of good leadership. 

While these things certainly do matter, I’d like to propose that quality leadership depends more on your character than your abilities. If you want to be the type of leader who people follow out of trust and respect, you have to ditch your I HAVE mindset and develop an I AM mindset. 

I AM leadership in a I HAVE culture inverts the thinking as it starts with an inside-out approach. This model of leadership requires humility; this does not mean that leaders should be doormats, but that they should strive for the greater good of their team. 

A leader should not exist to bring out the best in themselves, but to bring out the best in those around them.

How do we do this? How can we encourage others to care about the work they do, and to thrive in times of crisis? By teaching them how to run towards the roar. A healthy workplace begins with its culture, and culture begins with leadership. By getting to the root of your organization’s dysfunction and teaching your team to lean on your organization’s values in times of Krisis, you show them that they are capable of more than they ever thought possible. 

Reputation Over Brand

Have you ever heard someone refer to their “brand”? Davia Temin dissects the difference between reputation and brand in this article, “Concentrate On Your Reputation, Not Brand — Brands Are For Products (and Cattle), Reputations Are For People.” Temin asserts that our current cultural hyperfixation on our “personal brand” inhibits our ability to see one another as “the complex, nuanced, confounding and fascinating beings that we all are.”

In our image-obsessed culture, the idea of personal branding has only become more and more pervasive as time goes on. Truly effective leaders must move beyond this superficial way of thinking and towards authentic, value-driven leadership. Rather than crafting a curated image, I AM leaders build strong reputations rooted in purpose, values, and commitment to resilience. 

This distinction between reputation and brand is imperative to being an I AM leader.  In the context of being a leader people can trust and choose to follow, there are three things that cannot be argued against:

  • Moral discipline refers to doing something because you believe it to be the right thing to do.
  • Moral affinity is when your walk and your talk match. That sense that when a person says your name there is an automatic brand associated with it.
  • Moral autonomy gives the freedom to not need people’s permission or approval to choose, even though they are great to have.

Let your reputation speak to your leadership capabilities, not your “brand”. Images change and fade over time, but who you are and what you value can never be taken from you. 

When thinking about how you can prioritize your reputation over your brand, I’d like you to think about your persona auctoritas.

Defining Persona Auctoritas


The word “person” comes from the Latin persona, which has a two-fold meaning. Persona means the obvious, “human being”; however, it can also be used to convey “a part in a drama, assumed character” or “a mask, a false face,” such as those worn by the actors in later Roman theater. 

This idea– that our person is at least, in part, a performed character or an assumed identity– informs our idea of leadership. This is not to say that we should “act” a certain way in order to make ourselves seem like better leaders than we are; rather, this implies that leadership is one of the many “roles” we act in throughout our lives. This notion provides the context for the next factor of real leadership, which we will discuss next– authority. 


Auctoritas is the Latin word from which we get the English word for “authority”. Today, we would use terms such as “influence” or “clout” to convey the idea of auctoritas. However, the concept of auctoritas was deeply entrenched in Roman culture. Not only did the idea of auctoritas carry political implications, but it also conveyed influence and prestige.

The Latin term auctoritas is vital to understanding the political and the social structure of ancient

Rome. To ancient Romans, auctoritas carried more than just “authority”; rather, this idea conveyed “social authority, reputation, and status”. This authority could be earned in a few ways– through valor on the battlefield, or by obtaining prestigious political magistrates. was partly earned and partly inherent. However, there was an inherited element to auctoritas as well; to have authority in Roman culture, one had to have a noble bloodline, ancient family name, and far-reaching social and political connections.

Combined, your persona auctoritas refers to your role as a person with influence and a reputation. How do you use your persona auctoritas to become a leader worth following? 

The True Measure of Leadership

Effective leadership requires moving beyond superficial personal branding towards authentic, value-driven character. Great “I AM” leaders prioritize purpose, integrity, and bringing out the best in others over I HAVE leaders, who are inhibited by their ego, achievements, or cultivating a curated persona. Great leaders build resilient reputations grounded in moral discipline, consistency between their actions and values, and the courage to lead with conviction rather than chasing accolades. 

By developing a humble, service-focused mindset towards their teams, I AM leaders inspire trust and a desire to be led. A leader’s true measure lies not in their skills or brand, but in the values they live by and the positive impact they have on those around them.

Great leadership requires you to be trustable, respectable, and followable, even when sometimes people do not always find you “likable”. It is that influence you and I have when we enter a room, a meeting, or a customer’s location.

We all have influence… The only choice we have is the type of influence we will have. What will yours be?

If you’d like to connect about building your leadership towards becoming an I AM leader, let’s have a conversation.

The Fortlog Advantage

Organizations across North America have been benefiting from FORTLOG’s Interpersonal Crisis Management, Coaching & Consulting services for over 30 years, counting on John to help shepherd them through their most challenging storms. Today, a growing number of workplaces benefit from John’s proven strategies, systems and speeches that focus on integrating core-value practices “not just policies and procedures''.

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