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Values-Based Leadership

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Values-Based Leadership. Organizational Lifecycle and Values– They change over time. The Cohort Effect.

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Greenleaf (1977) proposed that servant leaders are leaders who put other people’s needs, aspirations and interests above their own. The servant leader’s deliberate choice is to serve others. This idea is similar to Burns (1978) transformational leadership, and to Path-Goal theory in which the leader enables employees.

Servant Leadership is characterized in organizations by openness and fairness, camaraderie/friendliness, opportunities, pride in work and company, pay/benefits, and security.

Robert K. Greenleaf

Levering and Moskowitz (2000) contend that servant leadership has been practiced and advocated in some of the best companies to work for in America, on the basis of the Fortune survey. The latest Fortune 2001 annual survey the top employers ranked Southwest Airlines, TDIndustries, and Synovus Financial numbers four, six, and eight respectively


Servant Leadership: The Values-Based Organization

  • Listening intently to clarify the will of the group, as well as to one’s own “inner voice” and seeking to discover what one’s body, mind, & spirit are communicating
  • Empathize with and understand others, assuming their good intentions, even when behaviors must be rejected
  • Healing as a force for transformation & integration using the subtle communication of valuing the whole
  • Awareness with courage for what you find
  • Persuasion rather than positional authority to build consensus and make decisions
  • Conceptualization or vision must be balanced with daily realities
  • Foresight requires learning lessons from the past, realities of the present, and consequences in the future using intuition
  • Stewardship in which all stakeholders hold as their goal the greatest good for the larger society
  • Commitment to the personal, professional, and spiritual growth of people
  • Community-building within the organization to replace what has been lost socially

Booz Allen Hamilton/ Aspen Institute

Survey of Corporate Values

In 2004 a survey of senior executives of 365 global corporations in 30 countries was conducted.

They were asked about how companies defined corporate values, how values were related to corporate performance, and best practices for managing values


Primary findings:

  • Ethical behavior is a core component of company activities
  • Most people believe values affect key strategic areas: relationships & reputation, but most do not see direct relationship to growth
  • Most companies do not measure their ROV (return on values); <50% have measures linking values & earnings
  • Top performers consciously connect values and operations (e.g., commitment to employees, drive to succeed, adaptability)
  • Values practices vary significantly by region (social & environmental responsibility)
  • CEO’s tone really matters

All companies have high sounding missions– there is almost no relation between words and actions

  • Spending $ on correct wording does not make a difference
  • Leaders need to receive and get feedback from employees; learn from employees whether they are using the correct coaching
  • Actions express values, words don’t!

Critique of Servant Leadership

  • Pros
  • It is increasingly popular given the growth of Christian orientation in modern life
  • There is anecdotal evidence of its successful application in prominent organizations
  • It is intuitively desirable in contrast to the media highlights on scandals, illegal, and unethical behavior
  • It emphasizes the role of values at a time when post-modernism threatens our sense of integrity
  • Its emphasis on leaders serving others contrasts with the resentment of and bad press on hierarchical authorities
  • Cons
  • The concepts are vague and difficult to define operationally
  • There are no sound measures of servant leadership
  • The Christian orientation may offend others in our religiously diverse population
  • Its popularity far exceeds the evidence for its effectiveness
  • It is unclear how such a culture competes in a highly competitive marketplace
  • Are the characteristics of servant leadership sufficient to account for leadership?
  • How does the role of leaders being rebels fit with S-L?