There has never been a more relevant time for values-based leadership. Corporate scandals, terrorist threats, office politics, fake news and broken relationships have created low trust in our everyday lives. The increasing gap between stated values and implementation is leading to growing cynicism about integrity and huge uncertainty for the future. If we ignore our values, we create a major risk for society.
As the competition for high quality employees intensifies, finding and retaining the best will rely on their values matching your company’s. The latest Institute of Leadership and Management Report shows that 70% of the personal values held by workers are not those championed by employers. Matched values are powerful tools for leaders wanting engaged followers. They are not just words you put on the wall. They are all about culture, brand, trust, judgement and winning hearts and minds. This applies to leaders at every level across all sectors who want to be authentic.
Values signify the principles or moral standards which are valuable or important to a person, team or company. They form a bond and set expectations of ways of behaving or how not to. Values underlie our everyday relationships with each other. Peter Shaw outlines their importance in The Four V’s of Leadership
Values create unique energy. A job without values can be achieved in a utilitarian way. However, a focus on values can enrich the quality of the relationships within an organisation or team, and therefore its effectiveness. People will do their job because they want to, rather than having to, if the company values resonate with their own core values. They are not a ‘soft’ management approach, because they enable people to do the toughest of jobs fairly and with greater satisfaction.
Values do have impact even if they cannot be seen or touched. Managers ignore them at their peril. You need to agree and communicate them, be a role model and have systems in place to allow them to be expressed. Core values are just words on a page unless they are converted into operational reality.
The key question to ask is: Do your values substantially influence the day to day behaviours of people at work?
Trust and Integrity
Trust is the one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organisation; and nation throughout the world. If developed and used, it has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Trust tends to be the least understood, and most neglected or underestimated possibility of our time. It is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t. Trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create.
The number one job of any leader is to inspire trust. It releases the creativity and capacity of individuals to give their best and a high trust environment in which they can work effectively with others. You can establish, grow, extend and restore trust with your teams. Living the values is a key part of integrity. It is important to be true to yourself and your values. My advice is don’t state your values unless you are prepared to live them.
No matter what you say or how you say it, if your subsequent actions do not match your words, you will not be believed. Our political and business worlds are littered with leaders who say one thing and then do another. Yet the sustainable successful companies are led by those who live by their values and have integrity. They add value to the bottom line and company image.
I like to think of culture like a tree. The strength of a tree is dependent on the quality of the roots. Well established and vigorous roots feed and hold the tree; even if not necessarily seen. Values are the ‘roots’ of the corporate culture.
The trunk of the tree is the leadership and integrity to transfer these values to all the branches (stakeholders). The leaves of the tree are the daily behaviours of every person. The values feed the behaviours and in return these behaviours feed the values. The behaviours are what the world sees and are your brand. Like a tree, culture needs constant nurturing in the early stages to get established, blossom and grow. Once it is firmly in place, it can be self-perpetuating. It does need protecting from the ‘diseases’ and storms of modern business.
Negativity, corruption, greed, apathy, blame and self-serving egos can eat away like nematodes at these precious roots and undermine the whole structure. Values-based leadership is about being the gardener to protect and grow the right culture.
Your values influence your judgement. For example, if you value people more than the task, this may impact on how much you delegate to others. You can assess your capacity for good judgement through the powerful and highly accurate Judgement Index. This will give you insight into your values-based judgement; plus highlight your strengths and areas for development. Good judgement is a vital leadership skill and like any skill it can be enhanced.
Developing Values-Based Leadership
If you want to develop your values-based leadership, then there are steps you can take:
- Take the time to clarify your own personal values and check that you are being true to them.
- Collaborate to define the values of the business in everyday terms and establish their importance. Ensure personal and business values align.
- Involve your team in defining the behaviours that match the values; including the behaviours you and they don’t want to see.
- Bring the values into everything you do; whether recruitment, performance reviews, branding, decision making or personal behaviour.
- Assess and enhance your capacity for good judgement with the Judgement Index.
- Celebrate success and achievement of the values.
Values-based leadership is not a fad or a nice to have. It differentiates great leaders that people want to follow. If you would like to find out more, then please contact me. Or you can book on our Speaking as a Leader course