Values driven leadership – is it the solution?

A recent story in my local press has reminded me of the importance of values driven leadership. It is yet another story about senior business leaders taking bonuses they believe they are entitled to, despite the seemingly inappropriateness of their actions. It isn’t just about the large global corporations that we hear about in the news, it’s potentially a challenge in businesses and other organisations large and small.

People-in-sillouette.jpgI have blogged about ‘fat cats’ before when the banking crisis was in full swing. We seem to hear constantly about senior leaders in business or community roles taking decisions that are based heavily on self interest. We have had stories about corporate tax avoidance, excessive bonuses, perks and insider dealing. In politics we have MP’s expenses, cash for questions, donor peerages, and recently lobbying issues. In the media we have had phone hacking scandals and other dubious methods of obtaining the story at all costs.  I’m sure the list could go on.

Has it always been this way? Perhaps so. It is certainly part of human nature to do the best for yourself and ensure your own, and your descendants survival. On the other hand I am old enough to remember a time when there appeared to be different values in play. When fairness still mattered. Maybe that is merely the rose tinted view that selective memory gives us.

It seems to me that we are at a cross roads for leadership. The world has moved on rapidly from the days of the industrial revolution when the old command, control structures worked. Generally the workforce were less educated and had very little access to information beyond their own small circle. Now information is readily available within seconds of events happening, however large or small they may be.

The values of leaders have always been important and highly effective leaders have tended to be the people whose actions have been closely aligned with their claimed value set. The information age has meant it is much more difficult to appear to be something you are not. I think many leaders are now ‘living’ their real values and the mismatch with their ‘ideal values’ is clearly exposed.

It may be the modern technology has exposed the frailties of the human condition, and in reality it has always been this way. However, I’m more optimistic than that. I believe that this information revolution will make the need for real values driven leadership stronger. My hope is that integrity will be high on that values list. Without it, employee engagement is just a dream.

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