Great leaders understand that it is their capacity to shape values that ultimately directs the course of an organization. To identify the true character and personality of your organization, skip the values statement that hangs in the corporate foyer and observe your people — they are the living expression of your organization’s underlying values.
by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg
Great leaders understand that it is their capacities to shape values and educate through vivid, living, personal example that ultimately direct the course of an organization. The way people think about customers and co-workers, the way they behave, and their impressions of right and wrong are all influenced by watching the way their leaders live out the organization's values.
If you want to identify the true character and personality of an organization, skip the values statement that hangs in the corporate foyer and observe the way people act in the mundane, ad hoc, isolated events of every day. Then examine the company's systems, strategy, structure, and policies. They are the living expression of the organization's underlying values.
Every firm builds its reputation based on a set of values. The question is whether the values driving the business of the firm have been haphazardly acquired or purposefully instilled, protected, and promoted. This is why leaders must become particularly interested in their role as value shapers.
TWO TYPES OF VALUES
Two types of values exist in every organization: the espoused values and the values people practice. When there is alignment between the two types of values, leaders within the organization are perceived to operate out of personal integrity. Simply put, personal integrity is doing what you say you're going to do.
When there is a disconnect between the espoused values and the values we practice, that's called hypocrisy. Professing a belief, philosophy, or standard to which you don't hold yourself accountable is an act of pretension and insincerity. Hypocrisy is the practice of doing this habitually. Leaders who operate out of hypocrisy breed compliance, because they lack influence and must lean on positional power to get things done. In the long run mere compliance will take the organization only so far before people lose faith in their leaders.
Leadership functions on the basis of trust and credibility. That's why leaders must become consciously aware of closing the gap between the espoused values and the values they practice. Leaders who live their values inspire a tremendous sense of commitment and loyalty in others. As a result, they expand their influence and their ability to effect change. This is important because the highly competitive and rapidly changing world in which we live requires nothing short of a radical commitment to excellence from every person in the organization. With strong leadership, people develop the necessary hope, passion, and perseverance to meet the demands of an unforgiving marketplace.
Children do as we do, not as we say. Same thing applies to followers. Part of a person's growth into a leader involves inculcating a basic authenticity. Some might reach high positions without crossing this milestone, and find it highly uncomfortable and unhappy there.