Values and the making of a leader

ethicsMuch is written about  the skills, competencies and vision leaders should exhibit to be effective. However, several thinkers point to the importance of defining and taking responsibility for the values a man or woman possessing influence exhibit to exercise that influence.
Why reflect on the values exhibited by a leader?  Heifetz notes that it is the values at the core of a leader that determine whether the leader will be good or bad.  This is not a commentary on whether a leader is successful in meeting their organizational goals. Many leaders have been successful in how they approach the organizational metavalues of maintenance, growth and effectiveness/efficiency and yet were exceptionally bad in terms of their moral and social impact e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin etc.

Greenleaf in his work on servant leadership presents a synergistic model that merges leadership competencies with leadership character (virtue) in a quest to define legitimized power.[1] The idea that legitimized power depends on defining the values by which a leader influences is succinctly pointed out in the dialectic painted by Hodgkinson:

…if a leader is defined by the attributes of being a gentleman and a man of honor, and if our leaders in fact are liars, rogues and Philistines, then we should cease to call them leaders and instead call them what they are, say, manipulators. Or we should require them to cease being manipulators.  Or we should embrace the linguistic shift so that henceforth leader means manipulator.[2]

The work of defining one’s values is rigorous – the work of reflecting on the values exhibited by the organization is more rigorous and often avoided because of the apparent complexity involved.  In the press of meeting the metavalues of the organization many leaders prefer to ignore this rigorous work in favor of meeting short-term gains in metavalues.
The question that begs discussion (regardless of whether a leader holds a formal or informal role of influence) is what kind of person will you ultimately be?  A leader? A manipulator?  Does it matter?  Jesus amplified the significance of the question in another question he once asked.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:25-27
As a person with responsibility to guide organizational maintenance, growth, efficiency/effectiveness can you afford to act in a way that diminishes who you and your employees really are?  Ought an organizational leader be honorable or ruthless?  Are personal values and organizational values ultimately irreconcilable?
Like it or not the essence of this question is bound in every day decisions. Incrementally people find that they are becoming the kind of person they either want to be or actually despise. Who are you?  What are you becoming?  Is the success you aim at the end you really want?  How are the two reconciled if they are not the same?  I don’t suggest that the organizational and personal values are irreconcilable. I do suggest that without a deliberate effort any leader finds him or her self in the undesirable position of experience a slow corruption of their once noble intentions. 
Will you take responsibility to create an organization that not only meets its metavalues of maintenance, growth, and efficiency/effectiveness but also mobilizes your team to tackle the difficult job of addressing the gaps that exist between values and action?[3] When all is said and done will you like the person you have become? Will success be enough if you don’t?

[1]  Greenleaf 2002: 21-53

[2] Christopher Hodgkinson. Educational Leadership (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press,1991), 111.

[3] Ronald A. Heifetz. Leadership without Easy Answers (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 22.

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