By Charlene Smith
Value is a word that has specific meaning at banks. It refers to financial transactions, audits, statements of account, currency, foreign exchange, but the highest value of all is found in people and how we lead, motivate and inspire them.
On the homepage of its website Harvard Business School declares: “We believe that leadership and values are inseparable. The teaching of ethics here is explicit, not implicit, and our Community Values of mutual respect, honesty and integrity, and personal accountability support the HBS learning environment and are at the heart of a School-wide aspiration: to make HBS a model of the highest standards essential to responsible leadership in the modern business world. Our values are a set of guiding principles for all that we do wherever we are and with everyone we meet.”
But if one looks at the day to day conduct of many of the graduates of that school, many of whom help populate Wall Street, how many can we number that live up to those values? Is value an empty five-letter word, use for PR but not HR?
International broadcaster, South Africa’s Tumi Makgoba once reflected: “Whenever I wonder about the lack of good leadership in our country and on our continent, I ask myself what I would want to see a ‘good leader’ do. My answer:
* Understand that you’re accountable to the people,
* Make tough decisions for the right reasons,
* Have the ability to recognize when your ego is getting in the way,
* Surround yourself with people who know more/are smarter than you,
* Be as willing to take responsibility as you are to take office,
* Know when to call it quits.”
You may have read the Forbes article by Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, clinical professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who wrote From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership.
He says that becoming the best kind of leader isn’t about emulating a role model or a historic figure. “Rather, your leadership must be rooted in who you are and what matters most to you. When you truly know yourself and what you stand for, it is much easier to know what to do in any situation. It always comes down to doing the right thing and doing the best you can.”
The four principles of values-based leadership he lists are:
Self-reflection: Identify and reflect on what you stand for, what your values are, and what matters most to you. To be a values-based leader, you must be willing to look within yourself through regular self-reflection and strive for greater self-awareness. If you can’t lead yourself, how can you lead others?
Balance means that you consider all sides and opinions with an open mind.
True self-confidence: recognize your strengths and your weaknesses and strive for continuous improvement. With true self-confidence you know that there will always be people who are more gifted, accomplished, successful and so on than you, but you’re OK with who you are.
Genuine humility. Never forget who you are or where you came from. Genuine humility keeps life in perspective, particularly as you experience success in your career. In addition, it helps you value each person you encounter and treat everyone respectfully.
Let’s think of some of the greatest leaders the world has known: Mahatma Gandhi, the man Time magazine called the greatest of the 20th century; Nelson Mandela; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Martin Luther King; Mother Theresa, and Pope Francis looks as though he may become an inspirational leader.
What are their common qualities? Humility, they kept striving for personal improvement, they were open to consider the views of their enemies and to transform, they all spent extensive time alone in self reflection. They were men and women of their word. They were kind, they could be trusted, they were respectful to those around them. They led by example.
There’s not a banker among them!
Let’s look at some inspirational business leaders. Richard Branson of Virgin struggled with dyslexia but that didn’t stop him from building a huge global empire, he dresses simply usually in a black linen shirt and loose black linen pants, has been married to the same woman for years, and takes a keen personal interest in his staff. He is humble almost to the point of shyness.
The richest man in the world, billionaire, Warren Buffet lives in the same home he and his wife built in the 1950s, it is a simple home in a humble neighborhood. He could buy Gucci and Ferrari and Hermes but you’ll never see him in those clothes or in a fancy car. He is humble and thoughtful.
Anyone can be a manager, an executive, a chairperson, but not everyone has the qualities of leadership.
Position does not give you leadership, nor does title or salary, it is the way you conduct yourself every day, and in every way.