No Image Available

Russell Deathridge

Read more from Russell Deathridge

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

What makes a leader valuable?


Russell Deathridge gives the leadership community some analysis of that most intangible of qualities - value.

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others" - Groucho Marx

In the last twenty years the word 'value' has developed a stronger currency within the commercial, retail and business worlds. All of us are familiar with that ubiquitous phrase: what's the value-add? The answer to which, while hard to fathom, will determine whether we adopt an idea or purchase a product. More recently, we have seen various countries economic prospects devalued as the sovereign debt crisis swept across Europe. In turn that crisis has left in its wake the debased reputations of those leaders (political, commercial or economic) who were perceived to have caused this financial tsunami. Famously, in some cases these leaders' careers have been 'shredded'.
But the above definition of 'value' essentially relates to material worth: those leaders who devalue the material worth of their followers are likely, and unsurprisingly, to fall from favour (unless they are North Korean). Yet this word can have a more profound impact on the long term reputations of various leaders – with the simple addition of the letter 'S'. We all have a set of personal values; whether we are strongly aware of them or live up to them is a different matter but they exist and can often drive how all of us, in leadership positions or not, operate both in and out of the workplace. In complicated business environments the 'authentic leaders', those who have a set of values and congruent behaviours, is increasingly needed.  
"We all have a set of personal values...they often drive how all of us, in leadership positions or not, operate both in and out of the workplace."
So what is a Value? In short it is such a sincerely held belief that it exemplifies the core of who you are. A value is something that rarely changes and when you 'honour' that value (or values) you feel most fulfilled. Conversely, when you dishonour your values you are likely to feel conflicted at best, angry or emotional at worst. You will easily recognise your values in others. If we look at the work of Robert Dilts we can take a more holistic view of the impact of a fully thought out set of values. Dilts has mapped a hierarchy of stages that determine who we are and what we do.
Values and Beliefs
In simple terms, this model assumes two facts that are important for today's leaders. Firstly, that any changes we make at the higher levels will impact on the lower levels; secondly, that any incongruence between the levels will cause conflict and problems. And it is this second point that is more important. People are far more likely to be passionate and motivated when their identity, values, behaviours and capabilities are aligned and congruent. We have all seen someone whose 'actions match the word' (to paraphrase Hamlet) – they are aligned and consistent. This presents a compelling and motivating leader that we respect, believe, trust and for whom we want to go that extra mile.
When there is a clash between values and behaviours, leaders can haemorrhage supporters: witness the collapse in popular support for political leaders who eschew irreducible core beliefs (ie values) when faced with political reality (behaviour). While that misalignment may cause personal doubt and anguish (emphasise 'may') the real impact will be on the voter/follower/employee. An example of this would be Nick Clegg's (UK Deputy Prime Minister) about face on student funding. Having signed a letter pledging he would never impose student top-up fees, it took him four months in government to change his mind. Truly an example of the Mario Cuomo adage: we campaign poetry but we govern in prose. The damage to his public reputation though has been severe, long lasting and possibly terminal.
A more local example may be a newly promoted first line manager who doesn't see themselves as a manager. A typical situation would be an individual who has been promoted from the team to a position of team manager. In this scenario we would expect difficulties and motivation issues if their identity doesn't match the new position – their behaviours are likely to be conflicting and more aligned to their old position.
"Your values are personal to you and that your views will be based on your experience and knowledge up to the present."
So what are your leadership values? Can you easily identify them and your leadership beliefs? As mentioned earlier, it is important to know what these are so that you can understand what drives you and your behaviour. Consider the belief 'I think that I can achieve anything' and the belief 'there are some things that are beyond me'. How will these two beliefs impact on our behaviours? We would clearly expect a leader with the first belief to continue to find solutions and be motivated to resolve issues as well as look at self development so that their behaviours match their beliefs. The second leader would accept their limitations and be more willing to allow tasks and goals to go unfinished. They have effectively given themselves an excuse for underachievement.
Remember that your values are personal to you and that your views will be based on your experience and knowledge up to the present. If you want to develop your understanding of leaders and leadership, then you can read more (autobiographies, magazine articles etc.), speak to leaders in your organisation or outside where possible, or other individuals, to get views on their leaders. Then you will have a starting blueprint to get yourself to where you see yourself having great leadership values.
Russell Deathridge is senior consultant with Kenexa and has over 14 years' of training experience, including twelve years working in the field of management and strategic leadership development


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!