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Values-based leadership

EXPERTS CHARACTERIZE today’s environment as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). Foremost futurist Jacob Morgan said, “The world is becoming a faster changing and more turbulent place for organizations, and the necessity to adapt has never been greater.”

What type of leadership in needed in a changing environment? Perhaps, a leadership anchored on good, universally accepted values.

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Values as foundation

Values provide a firm foundation for leadership in times of change and uncertainty. While vision provides direction, values tell us how to move towards the vision.

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There are many leadership models based on values. I like Harry Kraemer’s framework in his 2011 book, “Values to Action.” Kraemer wrote, “Becoming the best kind of leader isn’t about emulating a role model or a historic figure. Rather, your leadership must be rooted in who you are and what matters most to you. When you truly know yourself and what you stand for, it is much easier to know what to do in any situation. It always comes down to doing the right thing and doing the best you can. That may sound simple, but it’s hardly simplistic. Doing the right thing is a lifelong challenge for all of us. Fortunately, there are guiding principles that can help.”

Four principles

Values-based leadership (VBL) is based on four basic principles: (1) SELF-REFLECTION, to increase self-awareness; (2) BALANCE, to seek multiple perspectives and gain a global perspective; (3) SELF-CONFIDENCE, which helps leaders realize their own strengths and weaknesses and be comfortable in their own skin; and (4) HUMILITY, to remind them where you came from, despite their title or accomplishments. These principles are a lifelong discipline in one’s own journey of values-based leadership.

These principles help leaders build a values-based organization and develop a team of people with aligned values. They ensure that the right values are reflected in the organization’s strategy and culture. Values are good guideposts for treating and communicating with people, and in decision-making, especially during change, controversies or crises.

Five elements

A values-based organization has six important elements:

Leading with Values. Leaders have good values that surface from self-reflection. Leaders ensure that their own values are congruent with those of the organization. Leaders translate organizational values into manifestations of behavior that employees and other stakeholders understand. Leaders use values in decision-making, and they end up doing the right thing.

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Talent Management and Leadership Development. Leaders believe that talent makes a difference. Leaders meticulously choose, retain, motivate and grow their talents. Leaders hire beyond competencies – they look for job applicants’ character, integrity, and values that fit with organizational values. Leadership is seen as the most important asset of the organization, and is grown, nurtured, and developed. Leaders don’t mind about personal legacy, but care about organizational and leadership continuity.

Setting a clear direction. Leaders create a shared vision with their constituents. The vision, mission and values (VMV) are translated into clear directions, strategies, and goals. There is a line of sight between the VMV and what each individual does in the organization. Directions and plans are cascaded down the organization. Planning, control, performance management, and rewards systems reinforce the VMV.

Effective communication. Leaders are transparent, open, and often communicate using all forms of media – tri-media, social media, face to face, etc. to touch base with all stakeholders.The organization creates a good brand and employee value proposition (EVP).Feedback is given and taken freely. Leaders walk the talk and set good examples. Leaders exert effort to break down communication barriers.

Motivation and Team Engagement. Leaders don’t command and control – they inspire, motivate and bring out the best in their employees. The organization has a variety of motivational programs. Leaders create and nurture self-managing teams. Leaders trust their people and practice a new MBWA – management by walking away. Employees in return demonstrate high levels of job satisfaction and commitment.

Execution and Implementation. Leaders follow through the implementation of plans and strategies. Leaders ensure utmost integrity in execution of plans. Between people and structure or procedures, leaders are partial to people. Leaders constantly review and revise plans, as the environment changes. Leaders create a strong bond between the planners (leaders) and implementers (people).

Success to significance

Kraemer thinks that values-based leaders can go from success to significance by having the courage to lead through change, controversy and crisis, and by being socially responsible. In the words of Rudy Giuliani, “It is in times of crisis that good leaders emerge.”

In his 2015 book, Kraemer outlines ways for values-based leaders in their quest for “Becoming the Best.” He suggests that leaders must use self-reflection to become their best self; create a best team that understands and appreciates what they’re doing, and why; forge best partnerships through win/win collaboration with vendors, customers, and constituents; support the organization’s VMV to generate best investment returns; and make a difference in the world beyond the organization by becoming a best citizen.

(Ernie is the 2013 Executive Director and 1999 President of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP); Chair of the AMCHAM Human Capital Committee; and Co-Chair of ECOP’s TWG on Labor and Social Policy Issues. He is President and CEO of EC Business Solutions and Career Center. Contact him at [email protected])

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