The comprehensive overview of our planet in the World Economic Forum's Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014 provides a top-of-mind perspective, from their Global Agenda Councils, on the challenges and opportunities of the coming 12–18 months. It highlighted a “lack of values in leadership” as one of the key trends.
My last year's blog on Global and Local Agility without Hubris pointed to the Edelman Trust Barometer that showed that less than 50% of business leaders are trusted in 16 of 23 markets surveyed in 2013. The Edelman survey report headlined a Crisis of Leadership with trust in Business Leaders ethics and morality being very low and moreover very material gaps between individual perceptions of organisations and organisations' leaders. Last year The Economist reminded us that 'Abraham Lincoln observed that 'nearly all men can stand adversity but if you want to test a man's character give him power'..…….. clever business people have a tendency to be arrogant at the best of the times; telling them that they are masters of the universe can only magnify it.'
To start 2014 with a couple of questions:
1. Do employees understand the values of your enterprise's Leaders
2. Do employees feel a linkage between the values of the organisation and the organisational imperatives / key themes guiding the evolution of the enterprise?
During my days at Andersen Consulting, significant effort was put into explaining the organisation's six core values to new joiners and to employees at key milestones in their career development – for example New Manager School. Values were mentioned as a matter of routine in management discussions and in a broad spectrum of internal communications – I sensed that they were institutionalised into the way we did business from the top to the bottom of the organisation.
As I reflect, I draw a stark contrast with my memory of values development in a subsequent organisation. There, marketing 'sponsored' a project to develop a values statement. The project drew on the skills of external consultants and included workshops with a broad spectrum of employees. The outputs of the project included an impressive brochure, additional questions on values in annual appraisals and a commitment to probe individual's values during recruitment processes. The Board enthusiastically endorsed the work done however I could not sense real alignment between Board behaviour and the values! Moreover, our highly educated workforce could see it!
Values driven actions:
Much has been written about Leaders and Values – particularly in the run up to year-end. One of the new-year blogs that particularly resonates with me is from Dr Rick Brickman who observes that at 'this time of year we tend to put our attention on manifesting the future. I have found the #1 reason people set goals and don't achieve them is either they haven't clarified values or don't have a specific enough plan.'
I encourage you to demonstrate a values-based approach in your leadership in 2014 and provide clear linkage and transparency between the mission and vision you have for your organisations and the initiatives your people are taking to win and deliver work to clients now and to improve your enterprise capability for the future. I believe that this will provide a foundation for raising the engagement of your employees and through them your overall operational excellence and enterprise agility. Please contact me if you would like to explore the application of these ideas to your enterprise. I would love to help you raise the level of engagement in your enterprise in 2014. As a first step, please download our Re-energising Values Based Leadership paper.