Transforming Your Organisation: Seven Steps To Drive Values-Based Leadership

by | Jan 18, 2024 | Leadership Training

In an era where corporate culture and ethical standards are increasingly under the microscope, it’s more crucial than ever for executives to lead with values-based leadership.

Values-based leadership has always been a commendable leadership strategy, but now it has become, even more important than ever before. ‘When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier’, Roy E. Disney, an entrepreneur and nephew of Walt, once said. However, values-based leadership is not just about making ethical decisions; it’s about embedding a sense of purpose and integrity into the very fabric of your organisation.

This approach goes far beyond profit-making; it fosters a culture of trust, responsibility, and long-term vision. In this article, we explore how executives can embark on this transformative journey, reshaping their leadership style and connecting values to purpose to create a more positive, sustainable, and well-being-oriented business environment.


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‘Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.’


Albert Einstein’s wisdom is timeless. Infusing meaning through values and allowing your organisation to contribute to society and the environment is inherently valuable. In today’s fast-paced business landscape, organisations face the challenge of maintaining a strong and positive corporate culture while simultaneously achieving commercial success.

This conflict often results in short-term success at the expense of long-term stability and employee welfare. A focus solely on financial metrics, through seemingly necessary but aggressive cost-cutting, or undervaluing employee contributions, while neglecting societal impact leads to short-lived financial gains. However, it also results in a psychologically unsafe workplace affecting employees’ well-being, high workforce turnover and a tarnished public image.


The mighty values


Values-based leadership, central in today’s business world, hinges on principles that define our perceptions of what is positive, negative, or significant. Unlike beliefs, these principles are not linked to demographic factors like race or gender. Studies have shown that both transformational leadership, which inspires and motivates change, and values-based leadership, which focuses on core values, are effective in distributing decision-making power throughout an organisation. This underscores the importance of leading with strong values and ethics – and treating everyone as integral to the organisation’s success.

In this HBR article, Jamil Zaki, an author and a professor of psychology at Stanford University, emphasises the vital role of values-based leadership, particularly in difficult times. He notes that a focus on core values and community can lead to significant post-traumatic growth (PTG), experienced by many trauma survivors. PTG offers benefits like a stronger sense of purpose, improved social connections, and deeper spirituality, boosting morale and fostering resilience and long-term growth.

Zaki remarks: ‘Values-based leadership and attention to the community are always smart, but now they are mandatory. In times of trauma, these strategies can help organisations not merely survive, but build what we wish had been there all along’.


Become self-aware


Harry Kraemer, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and author of ‘From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership,’ describes the complex yet rewarding nature of becoming an authentic leader who understands the value of values. He emphasises that today’s business environment requires values-based leaders who achieve outstanding and lasting results by ‘doing the right thing.’

The journey to such leadership begins with self-reflection, which enhances authenticity, enabling leaders to understand their values, strengths, and emotional intelligence. They can then harmonise these aspects with those of their company.


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Gain the alignment


Scholars and corporate consultants, including business and organisational behaviour experts Paul Ingram and Yoojin Choi, have thoroughly explored the impact of aligning personal values with those of an organisation. This circumstance, known as ‘values alignment’, is when an organisation’s values resonate with its strategy and its employees’ values.

The benefits of achieving values alignment are considerable for all stakeholders: increased job satisfaction, reduced employee turnover, improved teamwork and more effective communication to name but a few. Furthermore, this alignment fosters greater diversity, equity, and inclusion, significantly impacting the retention of key positions like chief operating officers.


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Transform in Seven Steps


Values-based leadership transformation is a comprehensive and inclusive process. It integrates both top-down and bottom-up approaches, ensuring alignment between organisational strategy and individual employee values. For guidance on this process, HBR’s Ingram and Yoojin have outlined a straightforward series of steps:


  • 1. Define core values: begin by clearly defining the core values that your organisation stands for. These should be more than just words on paper; they should reflect what truly matters to your company.


  • 2. Lead by example: as a leader, embody these values in your daily actions and decisions. This sets a standard for the rest of the organisation and demonstrates your commitment to these values.


  • 3. Integrate values into business practices: ensure that your business practices, from hiring to marketing strategies, align with your core values. This may involve revising existing policies, reevaluating goals and considering the ethical implications of business decisions.


  • 4. Communicate values to stakeholders: communicate your values to all stakeholders (employees, customers, investors, community). This transparency builds trust and reinforces the authenticity of your commitment.


  • 5. Encourage employee engagement: following the words of John C. Maxwell, an author, coach and speaker: “To add value to others, one must first value others”. To instil a sense of ownership and responsibility among the workforce, involve employees at all levels in discussions. Consider the ongoing debate about work locations (remote, hybrid, in-office). A significant challenge lies in effectively engaging and connecting with employees in their diverse work environments.


  • 6. Measure impact beyond profits: develop metrics to measure the impact of your values-based leadership. Assess employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, community engagement and environmental sustainability, alongside financial performance.


  • 7. Drive continuous learning and adaptation: Values-based leadership is an ongoing journey. Be open to feedback and adjustments; commit to continual learning and development.


As your business grows, continuous investment in leadership development becomes key. It equips your leaders with the skills necessary for establishing and galvanising values and trust within their teams. Such ongoing commitment ensures that values-based leadership remains at the heart of your operation, fostering an enhanced work environment and engaged employees. At NxtGEN Executive Presence we offer transformative Executive Presence programmes designed to help your organisation achieve the necessary alignment.


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Empower leadership teams


At NxtGEN Executive Presence, we emphasise the significance of values-based leadership, particularly during challenging times. Our approach provides your leadership team with essential tools and strategies to identify and reinforce your organisation’s values – a process not only crucial for survival but also pivotal for strengthening the company’s future. By contacting us, you will take the first step towards values-based leadership and also contribute to the overall success and cohesion of the company.

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