A concept whosetime has come:virtues-basedleadership
In a 5 year period to 2007, BP were charged with no less than 760 safety violations,and were found to be grossly negligent in a number of instances. BP continued itsarrogant tradition of “say a lot, do little”.Old parishioner to hypocritical preacher: ‘Your actions are so loud that Ican’t hear what you are saying’. Part of the contradiction of being ahuman being is that we express one sentiment yet do the opposite.
When the Gulf of Mexico disaster inevitably occurred, “numerous investigations wouldplace the blame for the explosion on BP’s cutting of costs, inattention to safety, andoverly aggressive attitude toward extracting oil from difficult-to-reach reserves”. Thedirect opposite of their positioning as a company that cared for the environment andpeopleSachs, Jonah Winning the Story Wars Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, Mass. 2012
Consider the gap between the United Nations espoused value of integrity, andtheir refusal to consider compensation to the thousands who have died in therecent cholera outbreak in Haiti - where compelling evidence showed that themost probable source of the outbreak was at one of their peace-keepingmissions. Instead, they invoked their legal immunity.
Ex Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll isreported to have said in her outgoingaddress, after mentioning the Brazilian MinasRio iron-ore project fiasco: "There will have tobe much more – and less ambiguous –communication with shareholders".* Yet anarticle on their web site states “Our (six core)values help our business operateefficiently, effectively and transparently".**Ironically, a South African trade unioncommended her at this time for publiclyadmitting that the mine’s environmental historyleaves much to be desired!* Die Burger Sake 24 17th February 2013:"Carroll erken sy dink diep naoor foute by Minas Rio"** http//www.angloamerican/careers/working/leading-mining-company/living-our-valuesAnglo: “Our (six core) values help ourbusiness operate efficiently, effectively and transparently".**
These value-gaps open up all too often, for manyreasons………• A CEO might publicly express that she values debate yet in meetings she stifles debate.• Leaders succumb to pressure to show good results at any cost. Are arrogant.Get away with malpractice without internal sanction. Politicians renege on electionpromises.• Staff are pressured by circumstances or the promise of quick reward, to cheat, steal, takeshort cuts• New societal values emerge but arenot recognised by the organisation• Different people (of different generationsor cultures) within the organisationinterpret the same values differently,and there is no sound way of mergingthese differentviewpoints
Our values are what we do, how we behave - and not what we say wedo.Between the ideaAnd the realityBetween the motionAnd the actFalls the ShadowT.S.Eliot
When they occur, the shock ofthese disconnects can have hugeramifications to the credibility ofthe organisation, the authenticityof leaders, the trust, respect andloyalty of staff and customers. Itsfar worse than discovering that anoriginal painting or antique thatyou have is actually a fake.Conversely, when fully andconsistently lived, valuesbecome the glue that holdsthe organisation togetherthrough thick and thin.
Picture a dark underground cave with its entrance facing a blazing fire. Inside, thepeople cannot move – they are chained so that they face the rear cave wall. Thefire throws light and shadows onto that wall. The prisoners think this is their onlyreality. The fire outside, and the world beyond, represents a greater, more complexreality that they are not aware of.All too often, organisations don’t see it coming.And fixing is much harder than preventing.
The cave metaphor from Plato’s Republic serves as a reminderthat even the best organisations have blind spots. Their memberscan become "trapped by constructions of reality that, at best, givebut an imperfect grasp of the world…. They become trapped byfavoured ways of thinking”.A knee-jerk is often ‘but we’ve done the vision and values thing’Morgan, Gareth Images of Organization Sage Publications 1986
• Are we really a values-driven organisation?• Have we chosen the right values?• Have we kept pace with new, emerging societal values?• Are our values the glue that holds the organisation together, define our culture?• Does the outside world see an attractive, engaging, authentic, consistent display of ourvalues - a magnet that draws them closer to us?• Do our stated values distinguish us as being different to, and better than ourcompetitors? Have they translated into virtues?• Have we protected ourselves from the risk of disconnect between our stated valuesand actual events and behaviours that might occur – that could damage ourreputation, credibility?• Do we have mechanisms in place that ensure that our values are lived voluntarily andspontaneously without us having to resort to compliance measures?Every leader should always beasking:
The way to ensurethat all of thesequestions areanswered positivelyis …
… to embrace virtues-based leadership,paradoxically the sacred-secular in action
We’ve delved into the latest research findings and practices in business, into the nature ofintrinsic motivation, and into game theory. We’ve tested and refined this work in live situations.Here is a way in which you can take the high ground. Change your organisation’s DNAWe’ve learnt from the great religions. Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims all have traditions ofperfecting values, and making of them character virtues
And offer a step by step process tobecoming a virtues-led organisation(A continuing evolution from the early 1990s emphasis on vision, mid-1990sfocus on values, late 1990s move to value-propositions and relationshipmarketing, and of late - examination of ‘virtuous organisations’).
Identifying and enunciating the agreed organisational values to beshared.1The process involves(Anyone can arrive at a set of values - even criminal gangs have them! Thetrick is to arrive at the RIGHT values in the right way. Values that all staffrelate to, and find meaningful. Our process ensures that this is done. Topdown and bottom up. We distinguish between core and threshold values)
2Attaching behaviour indicators to each of the values.These measurable behaviours obviate any potential fordifferences in understanding, interpretation andexpectation. Everyone knows what is expected. There isno uncertainty.
3Making the values visible and transparent, simple to grasp andconcretiseWe use the mechanisms of image, anecdote, and story to shape andspread conduct("Among Buddhists, fables, fairy tales, anecdotes, adventurestories, and pious legends were very important as instructivenarratives...made their way, stage by stage, across AsiaMinor, Greece, and Rome to modern Italy, Germany, England andFrance..." )Gruber, Elmar R & Kersten, Hoger The Original Jesus Element 1995
4Reinforcing the values, attitudes and behaviours and converting themto virtuesOur approach here includes appropriate communicationmechanisms, reward and recognition rather than enforcedcompliance, role-modelling, coaching, mentoring, and counselling andtraining.
We’ve also found in our work that the introduction of a game is sometimeshelpful. (Games stimulate engagement and the optimal humanexperience. They can fit intrinsic motivational elements - being immersedin satisfying work, having the experience (or hope) of beingsuccessful, forging strong social connections, finding meaning and beingpart of something larger than ourselves).McGonigal, Jane Reality is Broken Jonathan Cape, London 2011
Why wait to increase your attractiveness to employees and customers, yourlevels of staff engagement in and at work, and the quality of interactionswith your shareholders, customers and suppliers? There are attractivebenefits in terms of organisational health, harmony and the triple bottomline.Contact us today about a talk, workshop, intervention.Peter Fox. Spiritual Direction and Mentoring, Counsellor, Facilitator, Author, LifeCoach, Palliative Care Educator firstname.lastname@example.orgGraham Williams. Management Consultant, ThoughtLeader, Speaker, Trainer, Neuro-linguistic Programming Practitionercentserv@iafrica.com
Living with purpose, meaning and flowOnce in an old medieval city there were three bricklayers hard at work onthe same building. A man walking past asked each of them what they weredoing. The first man answered gruffly, “I’m laying bricks.” The second manreplied, “I’m building a wall.”The third man looking up answered enthusiastically “I’m building aCathedral”.