Communicating Values In Word & Deed

“Identifying and applying ethical values is an important step to creating a highly moral climate.” (Johnson, 2012, p. 334) 

Values are so important because they are a part of the organization’s core ideology—the “central identity or character” of the organization (p. 334).  While many aspects of the organization are often changing and growing, the values should remain the same and serve as an ethical compass for the organization by guiding employee behavior. 

As leaders, we set the tone for our employee’s behavior.  “Leaders are the ethics officers of their organizations, casting light or shadow in large part through the example they set” (Johnson, 2012, p. 318).  Essentially, leaders need to serve as ethical role models to their followers by embodying the organizational values through word and deed. 

As was previously discussed in our blog post about Character, the second C of leadership, leaders must be “clear about their personal values and beliefs…[and] keep people and projects on course by behaving consistently with these values and setting an example for how they expect others to act (Kouzes & Posner, 2006, p. 3).  Nothing undermines an organization’s values quicker than a hypocritical leader.  If I claim that “teamwork” is one of our values, but I regularly take all of the credit and blame others for my mistakes, others will quickly recognize that my true value is “self-serving.”

In contrast, leaders should embody the organizational values in such a way that by following in their example, their employees should also act with the organization’s values in mind.  Successful implementation of ethical values means employees “learn to govern their own behavior by following these same principles” (Johnson, 2012, p. 329).

While walking the talk in this way is incredibly important, it is surprisingly not enough in this instance.  Leaders must also talk the talk.  Words without action may be meaningless, but action without words can easily be overlooked in the busy, sometimes hectic, marketplace.  Therefore, as the ethics officers for their organizations, leaders must continually communicate the organization’s values to their employees.  This involves: (a) discussing the values with one’s team so everyone is clear on what they are and what they mean; (b) highlighting how new initiatives and goals reflect the organization’s values; (c) linking performance reviews to the values; and (d) mentioning them in everyday conversations.

For example, if one your organizational values is “innovation,” you could introduce the implementation of a new sales software system as such, “As part of our dedication to thinking outside the box and trying new things to propel us forward, we will be implementing a new software system to help us keep track of our sales records.  As we implement the program, please let us know what works, what is challenging, and any solutions or ideas you have for even better application and implementation.”  Doing so explains the decision to use the new software in light of the organization’s value around innovation and also invites the employees to engage in innovation by suggesting new and better ways to use the program.

Overall, what is most important to note is that communicating the values cannot be once and done.  They cannot be mentioned one time and then be hung on the wall to die.  Instead, communication must be on-going.  Employees need to be reminded of the importance of organizational values and their ethical responsibilities through the leader’s words and actions on a consistent basis.

References:

  • Johnson, C.E. (2012). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Courage – The Sixth C of Leadership

The sixth C, Courage, refers to the leader’s willingness to seize opportunities despite the inherent risk and uncertainties.  It is easy to have an idea.  Many people are quick to point out problems, and even speculate about solutions.  What sets leaders apart is that they have the courage to act on those ideas and implement those solutions.  It should be emphasized that courage is not about fearlessness.  It is about being afraid and moving forward anyway.  It is about pursuing a passion – a purpose – that is greater than one’s fear.

Leaders influence change toward a common vision.  Change can be inherently difficult, and sometimes frightening.  It involves leaving the realm of “what is” for “what could be.”  This is risky and requires courage.  Why are leaders willing to take this risk?  They do so because the best leaders understand that failure, while it hurts in the moment, is a passing thing.  Regret is not.  The regret that comes from not trying – from missed opportunities – can last a lifetime.  So, even more than failure, leaders fear regret.  They understand the adage, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

Leadership experts, Kouzes and Posner (2006) refer to this willingness to take risks as “Challenge the Process” and describe it as “searching for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow, and improve” and “experimenting and taking risks” (p. 5).  What is known is usually safe; the unknown is often risky.  That is why one of the main ways leaders can encourage others is by creating a safe space for team members to take risks.  Leaders can do this in two primary ways: (1) providing help and support to an individual taking a risk and/or trying to achieve a goal; and (2) treating failures as learning opportunities.

One theory that addresses the role the leader should play in their followers’ goal achievement is path-goal theory.  According to Northouse (2010), path-goal theory involves leaders who “help subordinates define their goals and the paths they want to take…when obstacles arise…[it] may mean helping the subordinate around the obstacle, or it may mean removing the obstacle” (p. 132).  It emphasizes that it becomes the leader’s job to provide appropriate support to the subordinates.  Similarly, organizational change expert Kotter (1995) refers to it as empowering others to act on the vision.

Kotter (1995) echoes path-goal theory when he states that empowering others involves removing obstacles for employees trying to contribute to the vision.  “Renewal [achieving the vision] also requires the removal of obstacles” (p. 7).  Gill (2003) also recognizes the importance of empowering those carrying out a vision or change initiative.  To him, empowerment involves “giving people knowledge, skills, opportunity, freedom, self-confidence, and resources to manage themselves and be accountable” (p. 315).

In addition to empowering – rather encouraging – others, leaders can develop a risk taking culture by viewing mistakes and failures as learning opportunities instead of immediate grounds for dismissal (Kouzes & Posner, 2006).  Thomas (2009) puts it this way:

Progress and learning, then, mean expecting and allowing some honest mistakes – and using them as important learning opportunities.  If workers are afraid of being punished for honest mistakes, they are likely to play it safe and stay very close to well-established, tried-and-true solutions. (p. 165)

While followers must be held accountable, creating a no-fail culture will severely cut down on innovation and growth.

These principles presented by Kouzes and Posner (2006), Thomas (2009), and the path-goal theory are also reflected in the transformational leadership model.  Specifically, intellectual stimulation, one of the four factors of transformational leadership, involves supporting “…followers as they try new approaches and develop innovative ways of dealing with organizational issues” (Northouse, 2010, p. 179).

Finally, in addition to having the courage to take risks and cultivating this same courage in others, it is also important for leaders to take the time to celebrate success.

[As was discussed in a previous blog post, here at Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”  In order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model which consists of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; (2) Character; (3) Catalyst; (4) Compassion; (5) Communication; (6) Courage; and (7) Celebration.  Embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels and ultimately results in real transformation and sustainable results.]

Referenced Works:

  • Gill R., (2003). Change management or change leadership. Journal of Change Management 3(4), 307-318.
  • Kotter, J.P. (1995). Leading change: Why transformational efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 73(2), 1-9.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Thomas, K.W. (2009).  Intrinsic motivation at work: What really drives employee engagement. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler.

Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve

Level 5 Hierarchy

What catapults a company from merely good to truly great?  A five-year research project searched for the answer to that question, and its discoveries ought to change the way we think about leadership.  The most powerfully transformative executives possess a paradoxical mixture of personal humility and professional will.  They are timid and ferocious.  Shy and fearless.  They are rare – and unstoppable.” ~Jim Collins

If you have never read Jim Collins’ landmark book, Good to Great, make sure you read his classic article from the Harvard Business Review, “Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve.”  

2013–A New Year & A New Start

2013– a new year and the perfect time for a new start.  

This concept is nothing new.  For as long as most of us can remember, people have been using this time of year to set their “New Year’s Resolutions.”  However, for most people, those resolutions are broken as quickly as they are made.  Anyone with a gym membership will tell you gym traffic typically doubles during the month of January before slowing down to its usual flow around mid-February.  So why are we so bad at following through with our New Year Resolutions?

Most of our resolutions tend be made in the moment with lots of emotion but with little consideration and little planning.  For example, we look into the mirror on January 1st, see the results of our holiday merry-making, and adamantly declare–“I NEED to lose weight!  I will start working out!”  This example highlights another problem with many new year’s resolutions–they tend to be reactive and not proactive.

The many problems begin shortly after we join the gym.  We don’t actually know what exercises we should be doing–are we just trying to lose weight or build muscle?  Or maybe we should be trying to tone muscle.  Then, real life hits, and suddenly it is hard to fit going to the gym into our busy schedules.  And finally, we haven’t actually made any changes to our eating habits, so even though we are going to the gym a bit more often, we’re not seeing the results we want–and before you know it those problems add up and we stop going to the gym altogether.  Have you ever experienced anything like this in your own personal or work life, and what can we do about it???

Most resolutions fail because they are not linked to a broader vision.  Instead of standing alone, personal and organizational goals should support our personal or organizational vision.  Therefore, identifying the vision becomes the first step.  We’ve already discussed the “Key Aspects of a Great Vision” before, so we won’t go into all the details about it here.  But, we will remind you that quite simply, vision paints a picture of the future state you/your organization wants to achieve.  It defines what success looks like.  If we go back to the weight loss example, a strong vision statement would be, “Living a healthy lifestyle that includes a regular work-out program and a nutritional diet.”

But sometimes, having a big vision can seem overwhelming to a leader.  We have these big dreams—how are we ever going to achieve them?

The answer is simple; we need a plan.  The key lies in translating the vision into multiple, smaller goals.  When we do this, it is very important to write these goals (or resolutions) down.  Writing them down creates personal accountability, because now, we have a list that we can go back to and measure ourselves against.  However, don’t just take my word for it…

According to Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech (as quoted in Five):

  • 80% of Americans say they don’t have goals.
  • 16% of Americans have goals, but they don’t write them down.
  • < 4% of Americans actually write their goals down.
  • < 1 % of Americans write down their goals on an ongoing basis.
  • People who regularly write down their goals earn 9x as much over their lifetimes than those who don’t.

So, don’t wait.  Make this the year you get serious about your resolutions.  Take the time and identify your vision and break it down into smaller goals to achieve that vision.  Then, write those goals down.  You’ll be amazed at the difference consideration and planning can make.

Referenced Works:

  • Zadra, Dan. (2009). Five: Where will you be five years from today?. Seattle: Compendium, Inc.

Managing for Organizational Integrity

Too often organizations don’t realize that ethical failings are leadership problems–not just a lone employee’s shortcomings.  Here’s a great article about the importance of leaders building an ethical organizational climate based on shared values and purpose written by Lynn Sharp Paine, “Managing for Organizational Integrity.”

“From the perspective of integrity, the task of ethics management is to define and give life to an organization’s guiding values, to create an environment that supports ethically sound behavior, and to instill a sense of shared accountability among employees.” – Lynn Sharp Paine

Leadership and Government

Inta-Great’s Founder and President, Kathy Coder, discusses the importance of leadership in government and why she decided to run for State Representative in Pennsylvania’s 16th District. 

What is your primary reason for running?:  I want to use my background and experience to make a difference in our State’s future.  I desire to help create a sustainable flourishing state and region for the next generation.  I am not looking for a “job” or to be a career politician.  I think we need people in Harrisburg who know how to lead from a foundation of integrity and principle-centered decision-making.  I would like to use my leadership, local government, and business experience to help be part of a team who can create positive change.

What will be your top priority?:  Strong leaders understand their role is to serve the people they are leading; they also understand the importance of a compelling vision.  For those reasons, I will serve the people by putting their needs ahead of politics, party, and self-serving agendas.  I will also cast a vision of Pennsylvania as one of the most thriving states in the nation with reduced government size, spending, and taxes and increased job creation and economic development opportunities.

What’s the biggest problem facing the state?:  The lack of leadership.  A common definition of insanity is to keep doing what you’re doing and think you’re going to get different results.   Year after year, we keep hearing about the same issues and nothing changes.  Obviously, we need new thinking and people who have the courage, character, competence, and commitment to make change happen. We need to get the right people on the bus in the right seats and come together for the common good of our State—I think if we do that many of the problems will start being resolved.  Also as leaders, we elected officials need to role model what we want others to do, and we need to open to more accountability.  (For example: I am not taking the State pension and will report my expenses and receipts for the per diem allowances.)

Any final remarks?:  The compelling lack of leadership is why I got involved with politics to begin with.  Never in a million years would I have envisioned that I would be running for office.  Four years ago, my business was thriving, and my life was comfortable.  Then, I attended my first council meeting, and my life was turned upside down.  I saw a lack of leadership and competence. It violated every good leadership practice I was ever taught!  I was convicted that I had no right to complain, unless I was willing to get my hands dirty and get involved.  Since then, I have been passionate about getting others educated and involved as well.  I believe government can be better.  I have spent over 20 years in the private sector learning from wise mentors and business leaders.  I have translated these learnings into my public service.  I understand the importance of applying principle-centered, servant-leadership practices in government.  I realize that elected office is a stewardship and an honor.

If you wish to find out more information about Kathy Coder’s campaign, please visit:  http://www.kathycoder.com/

Importance of Leading Oneself

Leadership is about influence, service, and transformation.  First, leadership does not come from positional authority; rather it is based on influence.  Second, it is the leader’s job to serve the people.  For as leadership-expert Larry Spears states, “True leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others and see them grow” (1998, p. 3).  Finally, successful leadership is about transformation—the transformation of individuals, organizations, and even broader culture.  It is in this transformation piece where professional development plays a key role.

Transforming culture requires transforming organizations and institutions, and transforming organizations and institutions requires transforming individuals.  Therefore, culture cannot be transformed without individuals being transformed.  As Peter Drucker (1999, p. 11) writes, “The need to manage oneself is therefore creating a revolution in human affairs.”  Essentially, one must effectively lead oneself before attempting to lead others.

Once one has taken the time to understand oneself: personality, learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, etc., one has the responsibility to understand that others are just as unique.  Then, instead of rejecting those differences, one is able to see them as complements.  It allows one to create and lead a team where others’ strengths balance one’s own weaknesses.  Or, in the words of strengths-expert Marcus Buckingham (2008), “A great team player volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time and deliberately partners with people who have different strengths.”

The important question then becomes, how does one lead oneself?  One important way one can learn to lead oneself is through professional development.  Some professional development tools we use at Inta-Great include: the DiSC Profile, The 360 DiSC, StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Strengths Based Leadership, The Truth About You, and a listening profile—among other things.  All of these assessments are meant to help individuals understand more about themselves and the way they think, feel, and act.  On top of these tools, identifying personal values, writing personal mission and/or vision statements, setting SMART goals for one’s life, and developing a relationship with a mentor are all great professional development exercises.  And more formally, professional courses/seminars and advanced education also constitute professional development.  And yet, professional development is not only confined to resources outside of oneself, for as Donald Schon (1983) is quick to point out, the reflective practitioner is a resource onto himself.

The reflective practitioner is one who engages in reflection-in-action as a means of professional development.  Reflection-in-action takes place when one thinks about what he or she is doing while he or she is doing it.  This allows one to conduct mini-experiments, apply theory to a situation, and, in real-time, evolve the theory until the desired results are achieved.  This reflection-in-action allows one to recognize the tacit understandings which have been guiding one’s actions, perhaps even hindering one’s effectiveness (Schon, 1983).  Schon (1983, p. 68) sums it up when he says, “When someone reflects-in-action, he becomes a researcher in the practice of context….[he] constructs a new theory of the unique case.”

Overall, professional development, through both external resources and internal reflection-in-action, is the foundation of self-leadership.  Then, self-leadership is the basis for personal transformation.  And finally, personal transformation is “the breath that sustains our ability to lead others” thereby transforming organizations and institutions, and ultimately culture (Manz, 2001, p. 16).

Resources:

  • Buckingham, M. (2008). The truth about you: Your secret to success. [Video]. (Available from Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN)
  • Drucker, P. (1999). Managing oneself. Harvard Business Review, 77(2), 64-74.
  • Manz, C. (2001). The leadership wisdom of Jesus. San Francisco: Brett-Koehler.
  • Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. NY: Basic Books.
  • Spears, L.C. (Ed.) (1998) Insight in leadership. New York: Wiley.

President’s Day

Quote

In honor of President’s Day, we’ve put together our top ten favorite presidential quotes about leadership:

  1. “A man who has never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life’s mountaintop experiences.  Only in losing himself does he find himself.”               – Richard Nixon
  2. “You ain’t learnin’ nothin’ when you’re talkin’.” – Lyndon B. Johnson
  3. “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” – Theodore Roosevelt
  4. “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” – Abraham Lincoln
  5. “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your reputation, for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.” – George Washington
  6. “Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.”    – Thomas Jefferson
  7. “I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.” – Woodrow Wilson
  8. “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln
  9. “Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error.”        – Andrew Jackson
  10. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

And because we just couldn’t keep it to ten, here’s a Bonus:

11.  “The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the
greatness is already there.” – James Buchanan