Leading by Values

by Ron

People are searching for a deeper meaning in their lives.”
—M. Scott Peck

The leader who understands this and who responsibly presents a great cause to followers will turn a key in many hearts and unlock vast reservoirs of creativity and productivity.

But just having personal commitment to a great cause is not enough for a leader. The vision for “something beyond” must be successfully transferred to the entire group, whether it be a small staff, a department, an entire organization, a state, or a nation.People are less energized and tend to drift when they are unsure of how they should be operating within an organization. People need to see their leaders’ commitment to values, and they want a part in helping to shape their organization’s core values and vision.

Leaders who form corporate values, vision, and strategy in a vacuum or just in the executive suite lack the humility and commitment to move beyond themselves and include others who have solid ideas and opinions on what should define the company’s values. When leaders don’t talk about the company’s values and vision, people feel alienated and less energized.

When working to plant a vision and sense of a greater cause in a team, you must first ensure that values are understood and owned. This is accomplished initially by cataloging the personal values of individual team members. When the personal values of individuals are understood, team values begin to emerge.

The following story illustrates the steps that one dynamic business leader took to win support for a great cause in his organization.

After agreeing with his executive team on a set of core values, the CEO of this large firm got so interested in employee input on team values that he asked a consulting team to go to six different locations and determine the values of the two hundred to three hundred employees at each site. In team settings, it is often easy to agree on the first five to seven values; however, discussions get very interesting as teams round out the full list of values that will govern their individual behavior and business practices. Using an audience response system, the consultants asked each table-grouping of employees to discuss and develop team values. Next, they worked on “room” values.

Upon completion of the six-city tour, the employee list of values was compared to the executive list. The two lists were surprisingly similar. After some final discussions and some tweaking of the list by the company’s leaders, a final list of values was issued.

Although the operative values came down from on high, every employee who had participated had a personal stake in and loyalty to the list. The company-wide discussion had galvanized the organization not just to a set of core values but to a gigantic something-greater goal pursued by the company’s CEO. This company desperately needed to reverse a quarter-century of declining market share for its products. The CEO used this exercise in determining values as well as a great amount of day-to-day, hands-on involvement with key personnel to successfully “sell” his organization on the dream of a huge reversal of the company’s fortunes. The entire company bought into the dream and now shared his passion for something greater.

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