Leadership & Values – “Valueship”

Valueship is not a new concept. Those who are already leading successful companies are doing so because they are practicing Valueship. James L. Heskett, UPS Foundation Professor of Business Logistics at the Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University, and Leonard A. Schlesinger, the George Fisher Baker, Jr., Professor of Business Administration, senior associate dean, and director of external relations at the Harvard Business School, have studied the correlation between leadership and behavior and organizational performance. They found that leaders of the best performing organizations defined their jobs as:

  • identifying and constantly communicating commonly held values,
  • shaping such values to enhance performance,
  • ensuring the capability of people around them, and
  • living the commonly held values.

Never before in history has Valueship been more important than it is today. Almost daily, role models, athletes, corporate leaders, and government officials are accused (and all too often convicted) of theft, drugs, or graft. Adultery is so common that many people give very little thought to the gravity or potential pain and loss it can cause. Our daily entertainment consists of television shows filled with violence, impropriety, and questionable values. Implicit in all this is a subtle approval of behavior we then verbally condemn. By our actions or our apathy, we are setting the standards and values…or lack of them…for our followers and our children, the next generation. The need for Valueship can be seen in every profession, rank, and industry. The important decisions we make in life and in business should be influenced by values.

One classic example of leadership based upon values was the decision of Johnson & Johnson to recall all Tylenol capsules when there were seven reported deaths in the Chicago area which were attributed to use of the product. Although the problem was a result of product tampering after it was on the store shelf, the company decided to remove all product from every store in the US. The fact that this decision would cost them millions of dollars in the short term was secondary because of their commitment to their number one value: “We believe our fist responsibility is to the doctors, nurses, and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services. In meeting their needs, everything we do must be of high quality.” Having a clear understanding of their organizational values made the decision to act so decisively obvious.

Valueship is a process of leading people and organizations with as much focus on doing the right things as doing things right. When people, processes, and structure are in alignment with the values, vision, and strategy, the individual and the organization are balanced and the actions of each produce positive results for the other. When people feel as if they are an important part of the organizational whole, are committed to the goals and values of the organization, and see the leaders living these goals and values, they will generally be motivated to do good and even exceptional work. The result is a strategic alignment of resources and true organizational cohesion.

Adapted with permission from Executive Leadership. Copyright © Resource Associates Corporation – Sorrell Associates. All rights reserved.