Re-energising a focus on values based Leadership – 2014 New Year Blog



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 highlights the following forthcoming top trends:

  1. Rising societal tensions in the Middle East and North Africa
  2. Widening income disparities
  3. Persistent structural unemployment
  4. Intensifying cyber threats
  5. Inaction on climate change
  6. The diminishing confidence in economic policies
  7. A lack of values in leadership
  8. The expanding middle class in Asia
  9. The growing importance of megacities
  10. The rapid spread of misinformation online

This Blog was inspired by number 7 – “A lack of values in leadership”. Why? 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. Andersen Consulting Values


LECG Values 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 action

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 would go further and argue that a holistic “values-driven” approach that cascades from Mission and Values through vision, goals, objectives, to initiatives, measures and targets sets a foundation for effectiveness – by transparently linking the efforts you need from your employees and stakeholders to the strategic imperatives of the enterprise. Strattomics Pyramid

How to focus initiatives…

On the basis of the interactions I have had with a spectrum of enterprises over the last year, using the three themes of developing an engaging enterprise workplace, operational excellence and developing enterprise agility would be a good foundation. Stratactics

In my experience a key to achieving value from investing effort to develop such themes is to ensure that the initiatives involved are consistent with both the stated values of the organisation and the stated Enterprise strategy. Returning to the two questions early in this blog, this necessitates employees understanding the Enterprise’s values AND sensing the linkage between the initiatives they are investing their time in and the stated Enterprise values.  Engaging environments inspire discretionary effort – to achieve and maintain them Leaders need to demonstrate values that resonate with the spectrum of enterprise stakeholders (as opposed perhaps to only some of the employees’ wallets).  Personally I have been fortunate to see the benefits that flow from the culture that emerges – not least during my time on 16 Squadron in the Royal Air Force and at Andersen Consulting / Accenture. Not least, both organisations were less reliant on checks to ensure process compliance and more importantly, were able to maintain strategic direction through “fogs” of intense competitive rivalry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA How confident are you that your enterprise will maintain direction through periods of “poor visibility”?   Our work with organisations tune established strategic approaches to the agile demands of current market places. and this can be a foundation for spreading an understanding of your enterprise strategy across your organisation. I believe strongly that engaged employees are the critical success factor for gaining value from your strategic thinking and are essential for maintaining strategic direction when times get tough.

In conclusion, 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.

Best wishes for an agile and successful 2014.

Huw Morris


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