BusinessDay

Values-based leadership

Establishing clear organizational values helps to ensure that all employees are working towards the same objectives. The core values support the company’s vision and shape its culture. That’s why every single business decision must be in alignment with these values. An organization without values isn’t ready for business. Having a defined and shared organizational value with employees helps build great teams, deliver excellent customer service, and foster innovation.

Values are fundamental because they are the driving forces in human motivation and corporate culture, and balance among values is essential to a healthy workplace and long-term business success. They serve as a moral compass, influencing decision-making and setting ethical practices and standards for an organization. Values are ideals that impact members of an organization’s behaviours and enable its growth and development.

Hultman (2002) says understanding values requires us to understand their relationships to needs. Animals act on instinct pre-programmed on how to respond by nature; people act on free will, choosing how to respond. Our choices are based on values, which are beliefs about what is important in life. A primary function of values is to meet needs and attempting to meet needs brings us face-to-face with the dilemma of choice. This dilemma places us between two sets of forces: those pulling toward safety and those pushing toward growth and development. Harrison (1969) described this as a struggle between the need for defences (security) and the need to know (growth). How people and organizations resolve this dilemma depends on their values. Therefore, values shape people’s preferred ways of satisfying their needs and, whether they are aware of it or not, every action is guided by one or more values. Once embraced, values become the standards of importance.

Again, it is pertinent to note that values are psychological constructs. They are internal to a person. Organizations don’t have values, but because they are composed of human beings, their cultures are shaped by values. The values of persons shape organizational behaviour and the direction taken by organizations.

Since business is all about creating value and values are shared among organizational members, it, in turn, forms a central component of the corporate culture. So, culture then affects an organization’s capacity to attract and retain high-quality employees. It influences the dynamics of relationships between members of the organization and affects how they relate with customers. Most importantly, culture determines an organization’s flexibility and readiness for change, and it can either aid or hinder the achievement of an organization’s objectives. Northouse (2013) explains that values ultimately shape an organization’s culture practised day in and day out by its members. Northouse describes how values influence culture and its impact on leadership performance.

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Therefore, through their personal value system, leaders and executive management team can influence an organization’s culture largely through their behaviour. Schein (2010) explains that leaders can leverage intangible factors that shape the mind-sets of employees of an organization, and leaders can leverage culture for management control. These intangible factors are the vision and mission statements, core values, the leadership style, and the relationships between its internal and external stakeholders. The intangible factors influence culture at three levels: visible artefacts espoused beliefs and values, and shared assumptions.

Culture also affects an organization’s capacity to attract and retain high-quality employees. It influences the dynamics of relationships between members of the organization and affects how they relate with customers. Most importantly, culture determines an organization’s flexibility and readiness for change, and it can either aid or hinder the achievement of an organization’s objectives. The culture appropriate for an organization affects its public image and influences the way stakeholders respond to it.

Core values do not only shape a company’s culture alone, but it does also impact its business strategy as well. They help create a purpose, improve team cohesion, and create a sense of commitment in the workplace. However, having core values doesn’t mean having a polished communication plan around excellent values and principles. The organization’s leadership must truly honour its values in everything they do and set the right example for the employees. It’s the only way the management team can build trust in the workplace. The management team cannot compel employees to follow the company values set for the business if they don’t follow and integrate them into their daily work in the first place.

The problem revealed from the data collected from some corporate institutions indicates that the workplace contends with potential issues regarding fairness, mutual respect, empathy, harassment, unhealthy competition, intimidation, mistrust, integrity, and humility. This can create a toxic workplace and culture, requiring an urgent intervention to conduct a values-based intervention in the organization. Addressing these potential issues necessitates making changes, which underscores the need for strong leadership. The leadership team is critical to the ability of an organization to become all it can be, achieve its strategic objectives, and unleash its people’s potentials. The leadership team must epitomize the values of the organization as those values remain the bedrock upon which organizations are built, and it cements employee and customer retention and assists in building a sustaining relationship.

Toye Sobande is a Lawyer and Strategic Leadership Expert. He is the Principal of Stephens Leadership Consultancy LLC, a boutique consulting firm offering creative insight and solutions to businesses and leaders. Email: contactme@toyesobande.com

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