I'll give you the moral of the story first: As a leader, you exert far more influence than you realize.

Years ago, after graduate school, I interned for a large publishing company, where top executives regularly spoke to us editorial hopefuls at brown-bag lunches on the publishing industry, getting a job, and more. Many have blurred in my memory, but I still remember when one of the company's most prominent editors joined us. I had seen her walking the hallways, always elegantly dressed in black suits and pearls, and I was eager to hear what she had to say.

The topic for the day was career advice, and I expected tips on what to highlight on my resume, how to get past HR, and how to negotiate for a higher salary. But this editor offered advice that was far more valuable.

“Be careful who you work for, because you'll always take a bit of them with you.”

I've never worked for this editor (she has no connection that I know of with Hanley Wood, LLC, the publisher of MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE), but her words have stayed with me through multiple employers, bosses, and jobs. And I expect they always will, because they speak to the tangible and intangible things we learn at our workplace.

As you might expect, such thoughts came to mind as we created this month's cover feature on great work-places. Such lists are always highly subjective, and we acknowledge that. That's part of the reason we chose not to rank these 10 companies numerically—a great place for you to work might be a terrible environment for your colleague.

That said, we did see common characteristics among the companies that made this year's list. Great benefits certainly counted. Who would refuse a grant of stock shares upon hire or an extra week's paid vacation to care for your newborn child or your aging parents? I certainly wouldn't.

As appealing as those extras are, though, it's not the perks that you provide that result in a great workplace. Rather, it's the corporate values behind the decision to offer such benefits that truly creates your company culture. Firms that value ambition and high performance compensate those traits accordingly. Companies that are family-friendly offer programs that support employees' home lives, from alternative work schedules to day care. Organizations that appreciate loyalty reward long-time staffers with more than a gold watch; instead, after 10 years of service, their employees pay exactly zero percent of their health insurance premiums.

So, as you read through this month's story, I challenge you to think about your goals for your own company and what type of workplace your corporate values are creating. If you find a disconnect between the two, you wouldn't be the only one; too many apartment executives publicly agonize over their on-site turnover rates while continuing to pay low salaries to these supposedly essential sales and property management employees.

You can be different. If you find a conflict between your corporate values and your corporate outcomes, do something about it so that one of your employees will write to us next year and nominate your firm as a great workplace.

After all, you never know who will take your words to heart.