How Values Affect Leadership

Joan Marques - Ed.D., MBA.
Burbank, California

When we engage in the process of reviewing a leader in the conventional sense of the word, meaning as a person who is in charge of guiding others toward a certain goal, we cannot escape also examining his or her values.

In leadership, there are two types of values that play an important role:

The first term that comes to mind when reviewing the above categories is: compatibility. There has to be at least some overlapping between these two types of values. A leader who is very religious, for instance, should probably not get involved in an organization that is anti religion or pro violence. That is, of course, if his or her religion is a peaceable one.

A good question that rises when further analyzing these two types of values is: which one should be prioritized? There may be mixed feelings about that, as a person tends to be guided by his or her personal beliefs in the first place, and only secondarily by the assessments of others. This emphasizes even more the importance of the previous paragraph: there should be compatibility between the two categories of values to avoid obstruction in institutional decision-making.

If compatibility is assured the answer to the priority query is easily given: the leader should primarily go by the organizational values, knowing that those are generally in line with his or her own.

That values are vital in leadership may become even clearer if we list a few of the areas they affect:

a) Perceptions of decision outcomes: depending on a leader's values he will perceive an outcome as successful, mediocre, or ineffective, while another may see it entirely different. A leader who prioritizes people and environmental well-being, for instance, will consider a decision to invest in the community in sacrifice of part of the company's annual profit successful, while one who prioritizes the company's statistical performance might not.

b) Strategies toward goal achievement: a leader with higher ethical values may prefer a more long-winded yet people-favoring way toward goal achievement, than one who wants fast evidence of his or her lucrative performance.

c) Human Resource management: a leader who prioritizes the interests of his or her workforce will probably advocate larger investments in training, diversity, and making sure the right people are in the right place, whereas a leader who is out for the numbers will be more inclined to limit the budget available for improvements in the employment sector of the company.

d) Decision-making procedures: a leader who supports interconnectedness and a good work atmosphere, will attempt to establish more team performance within his organization, although he or she may realize that team decisions are usually more time consuming than individual decisions. However, the leader who values fast decision-making and who undervalues the possible input of workers, may avoid team establishment wherever and whenever possible.

e) Perceptions of organizational success: a leader who values a happy, loyal workforce will prefer a cut in profits for the sake of employee retainment, while one who sees the company as a profit producing system will not hesitate in applying drastic reductions in the company's workforce for the sake of annual numbers.

The above-presented list may have provided a concise overview of the importance of value in leadership.

As an addition to the initial statement about the importance of compatibility in personal and organizational values, it may be good to conclude this article by stating that a real strong leader will most likely be capable to alter the company's mission and vision toward his or her personal values as he or she successfully establishes him or herself in the firm.