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.

Character – The Second C of Leadership

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” ~ John Wooden

[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.  In this post, we will further explore the second of our Seven Cs – Character.]

Throughout the leadership literature, there is an emphasis on the leader serving as a role model for followers.   A leader cannot be viewed as a role model; however, if they do not possess character.  Character refers to the integrity of the leader.  It means others view them as credible and possessing moral authority. 

Kouzes and Posner (2006) refer to this principle as “Model the Way” and describe it as leaders being “clear about their personal values and beliefs” (p. 3).  They go on to encourage leaders to “keep people and projects on course by behaving consistently with these values and setting an example for how they expect others to act” (p.3).  Being clear about one’s own values and setting an example for how others should act paves the way for leaders to be champions for the organization’s values.

Not only is a leader responsible for developing his or her own character, he or she is also responsible for helping to develop the character of his or her team and organization.  According to Johnson (2012), “Leaders are the ethics officers of their organizations, casting light or shadow in large part through the example they set” (p. 318).  Essentially, leaders need to serve as ethical role models to their followers, and they need to be champions of the ethical decision-making process.  This means leaders must internalize the ethical climate they promote by embodying the organization’s values and then hold others accountable to those values.  Doing so requires rewarding those who act ethically and punishing those who do not—regardless of the results from that employee’s behavior.  Leaders must walk the ethical talk.

The idea of leaders serving as role models is also especially prominent in the transformational leadership theory as it closely aligns with the “idealized influence” aspect of transformational leadership.  Idealized influence refers to transformational leaders’ ability to live by standards and values that allow followers to view them as role models.  “They [transformational leaders] are deeply respected by followers who usually place a great deal of trust in them” (Powell, 2011, p. 177).

Finally, the leader’s character is important because it affects how well others respond to the leader’s attempts to cast a vision and instigate change.  For example, renowned change expert, John Kotter (1995), states that in order to facilitate change, leaders must embody the change and serve as role models for the rest of the organization.  “Communication comes in both words and deeds, and the latter are often the most powerful form” (p. 6).  He then goes on to emphasize the importance of leaders communicating the change vision “in deed” because, “nothing undermines change more than behavior by important individuals that is inconsistent with their words” (p. 6).  Similarly, Roger Gill (2003) also emphasizes the importance of leaders serving as role models when facilitating change.  Gill writes, “In any change process, the change champions – leaders – must be credible,” and he then goes on to define credibility as being perceived by others as honest and competent (p. 316).

It is this link between character and change that sets the stage for the next or third C, Catalyst.

References:

  • Gill R., (2003). Change management or change leadership. Journal of Change Management 3(4), 307-318.
  • Johnson, C.E. (2012). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • 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.
  • Powell, G. N. (2011).  The gender and leadership wars.  Organizational Dynamics, 40, 1-9.

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.”  

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