“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” (Harry M Jansen Kraemer Jr)

In the continuing, increasingly complex and changing challenges that our world is experiencing, many of which have potentially disastrous implications, the need for effective leadership is greater now than perhaps at any time in recorded history. And at the same time, what is being called for in terms of leadership sounds as confusing as the issues and conditions facing us. We often hear of the need for strong leaders, results-driven leaders, servant leaders, charismatic leaders, heroic leaders, collaborative leaders, innovative leaders, tribal leaders, and more. But what we observe in those calls for leadership is that each arises out of an ideologically-driven world and implies that every other type of leader, except the type it is calling for, is ineffective, inappropriate, or just outright wrong. Kenton Hyatt and Cheryl De Ciantis perceptively note: “The words ’Leadership Chaos’ might be used to describe the political, social, economic, religious, and environmental conditions for much of the first decade of the 21st Century. The difficulties faced in all these various domains are so drastic that it is difficult to refrain from being sarcastic about the effectiveness and utility of what is referred to as “leadership development.”

Values-driven leadership realizes its full potential when espoused values are embodied by leadership and embraced by the entire organization. This allows for an authentic and sustainable business culture to emerge. As the Centre for Values-Driven Leadership, Benedictine University, notes: “Research on emerging global companies supports the perspective that leading high-performance organizations require leaders to create visions that reach beyond the bottom line. Values-driven leaders embrace this opportunity by focusing on possibilities and finding creative solutions to global challenges. This is not an ethical guideline that stifles the company’s growth but rather a business opportunity that ignites innovation and increases performance, growth and profitability”. Values-driven leadership offers a platform for leaders to unleash this potential by serving as a catalyst for personal development and transformation and by encouraging employees to engage their values, sense of purpose and intrinsic motivation to be part of something that contributes positively to society.

Values-driven leadership implies a conscious commitment by leaders at all levels to lead with their values and create a corporate culture that optimises financial performance, ethical practice, social contribution and environmental impact. As such, values-driven leaders lead from a deep sense of purpose and a demonstrated commitment to life-affirming values, such as honesty, integrity, excellence, courage, humility, trust, care for people and social and environmental responsibility. Harry M Jansen Kraemer helpfully notes four principles that apply to a values-driven leader:

  1. Self-reflection – the ability to identify and reflect on what you stand for, what your values are and what matters most to you. This self-reflection drives self-leadership – leading your life with integrity and authenticity.
  2. Balance – the ability to see situations from multiple perspectives and differing viewpoints to gain a much fuller understanding. Balance means that you consider all sides and opinions with an open mind.
  3. Self-confidence – accepting yourself as you are. You recognize your strengths and your weaknesses and strive for continuous improvement. You realise that there are always many people more competent than you are, but you nevertheless offer your unique contribution and tap into the excellence of others.
  4. Humility – genuine humility keeps life in perspective, particularly as you experience success in your career. In addition, it helps you value each person you encounter and treat everyone respectfully.

In a world with many confusing problems, a values-driven leadership approach provides the leader with the framework to develop trust, solicit participation and find innovative solutions of integrity. The approach counters the prevailing leadership scepticism and establishes the foundation to do things right.

Free To Grow offers the excellent workshop, Engaging Leadership, to enable managers to lead from a values-driven mindset

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