Taking charge



Leadership guru Don Campbell explains how the personal value system moulds the business leaders of tomorrow


All leadership is values driven whether we like it or not. Its legacy has been handed down through the centuries from people like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Jesus, Buddha, Churchill, Eisenhower and Lincoln, to name but a few.


We bring to bear on the people around us our values, standards and principles that have been sharpened and honed from early childhood. The prime influencers at this early age were our parent leaders. All we can hope is that our parent leaders had a good set of values. As the Jesuits said, "give me a child until the age of seven and I will shape the man for life."


It is at this early age that we don’t question what our parents say, we accept their word and we take on the values that they hold dear. It is only later that we start to ask ourselves what is it that we believe, what is it that we are about, what is the point that we would not go beyond, and what are the values that we are going to live our lives by.


Business is not always clear-cut when it comes to values. We often use fabulous words: trust, respect, honesty, truthfulness, integrity, honour, gentleness. We place these words in sentences for our customers to see, and for our staff to feel good about, but totally fail to put real substance into them and back them up with actions. So, how do we live up to the values we hold dear, how do we walk the talk, how do we not compromise our values whilst we may have to compromise the argument?


Telling people the truth, most of us would see as a good thing. There would be times however, when we could justify that telling the truth would not be beneficial to the people in question. So we are now in a dilemma. Our values say we should tell the truth, our sensitivity tells us saying nothing would be the best thing, as we don’t want to hurt them.


This is where no single value can stand alone; others will need to come into play to allow us to stay true to the value that is most at risk of being compromised. For example, truth on its own can be cold, brutal, hurtful and so on.




If we bring other values alongside, this then allows us to do the right thing in the right way. If we bring values of sensitivity, care and courage alongside truth, then we can have the courage to deliver truth in a sensitive way that the other person will be able to hear, but that may not necessarily be the way that we would wish to deliver it.
Most values are about balance and it is often a very precarious one.


One of the extremes of holding to their values would be the Japanese samurai class pre-1600 where the practice of seppuku, which was ritual suicide on a point of honour, was largely practised. In modern Japan the idea that an honourable death is better than a life of disgrace still continues. Japan has the highest rate of suicide in the world. Disgrace and dishonour are still there in today’s modern Japan and its people still kill themselves for failing in business or disgracing their family and their bosses.


So where do we go from here? Honour and loyalty from staff is something bosses and managers demand. And why shouldn’t they? After all, they pay them. But values come from within the person and not from within the pay packet. Each one of us has to work out for themselves what we are prepared to stand up for and what we are prepared to do, if our values are in danger of being compromised. We need to know what our values are, we then need to look and see if the company we work for allows us, by its culture and its modus operandi, to live those values.




We need to hold ourselves, our departments, our work colleagues, our bosses and our companies accountable for the values that are written on mission statements, and breathe life into them, so they don’t just become fancy words and rhetoric.


Values are in people; people are in companies. It is people that set values. It is people that live values. We cannot blame faceless companies for compromising values. We can only blame the people that run them, and of course, that is all of us.


We are all responsible in helping the company live and breathe its values for we, the people, are the lifeblood, the breath, and the beating heart of our company, and therefore we are the keeper of its conscience and its values.
The questions I will leave you with are:
• What are your three prime values?
• Do you strive to live up to them?
• Do they fit with your business?
• Do you help your work colleagues stay true to their values?
• Do you then collectively help the business not to compromise on the values it holds dear?
Your answers to these will help (I hope) to be a guide to actions from your conscience, and that will improve the active expression of company values. This in turn will create a more truthful alliance of our internal expectations of ourselves and the external behaviour of our business.