Be honest now. Many of us say that our organizations have “values,” but how many of us know them by heart? How many of our coworkers and employees know them by heart? And presuming we and they know the “talk,” do we and they “walk the talk?” And what is the effect to our bottom lines? And finally, how can values leadership create business value?
The genesis of values
Leaders might ask themselves, What is the genesis of my values? Philosophers and sociologists such as Kant, Dewey, and Joas grounded values in self-experience of the “performance of duty” while Scheler and Taylor believed that values derive from the heart or “an orientation to the good.”1
If we accept that a leader’s values derive from the heart, then it follows that such values are derived intentionally through experience and reflection. Gilbert Fairholm of Virginia Commonwealth University defines values leadership as a “leader action to create a culture supportive of values that lead to mutual growth toward excellence and enhanced self-determination [that] requires a major shift in one’s leadership philosophy and adoption of a specific mind-set that facilitates realization of these process and outcome desires [emphasis added]”.2 Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, say that “the answers to the question of values will come only when you’re willing to take a journey through your inner territory.”3 C.S. Lewis called this process the “tidying up or harmonising the things inside each individual.”4
Thomas and Susan Kuczmarski say that “organizations today haven’t created a values system that most employees endorse and adopt as their internal ‘pledge’ to one another” because “values haven’t been defined” to describe the organization’s external beliefs or guide employee decision making, communication, or interpersonal behavior, which can lead to cultural anomie, or alienation.5 To counteract anomie, they recommend the identification and cultivation of group and individual norms and values:
- Instill and cultivate individual and group values.
- Develop norms to guide communications and behaviors.
- Empower individuals to develop meaningful personal relationships.
- Infuse meaning into peoples’ jobs.
- Provide individuals with a genuine sense of equality and attachment to work organizations.6
Fairholm describes such values leaders thusly:
Leaders today instill a sense of mission in their people and the organizational surround. There is an emphasis on inspiring leadership as opposed to management based on refined skills. This kind of culture is one committed to follower development. It is a culture of concern for workers. It is results oriented, not activity oriented. Leaders create an environment committed to developing and cherishing the work force.7
Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes, recently spoke at Regent University’s Executive Leadership Series. Bachelder, who credits much of her business education on character and values to serving with Tom Monaghan of Dominoes Pizza, took over a struggling Popeyes in 2007 and established a Road Map for Success that includes the pillar of Creating a Culture of Servant Leaders. Bachelder admits values leadership is hard work, "You can't just talk about it, you've got to work through this stuff with your people; this is a really high standard to hold your team to.” According to Brett Wilson, Bachelder “achieves this by applying the ‘Popeyes Purpose and Principles’ of listening carefully, understanding passion, being fact-based, and coaching and developing leaders in her business practices.”8 Jonathan Maze of Restaurant Finance Monitor reports that “Popeyes has been one of the hottest concepts for the past few years. It’s now one of the 10 or so chains to which bankers are most eager to lend money.”9
Leaders who collaboratively define values with their workforce and not only espouse these values but “walk the talk” can more effectively engage employees and positively affect the bottom line. But start by “tidying up” and “take a journey through your inner territory” to determine to what extent you value values.
David Boisselle is Director of Military & Veterans Affairs at Regent University and a graduate of LEAD Hampton Roads (2010). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1Joas, H. (2000). The genesis of values. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago
2 Fairholm, G.W. (1991). Values leadership: Toward a new philosophy of
leadership. New York, NY: Praeger Publishers. p. 5.
3 Kouzes, J.M., & Posner, B.Z. (2002). The leadership challenge. (3rd Ed.).
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. p. 52.
4 Lewis, C.S. (1952). Mere Christianity. New York, NY: HarperCollins. p. 72.
5 Kuczmarski, S.S., & Kuczmarski, T.D. (1995). Values-based leadership:
Rebuilding employee commitment, performance, and productivity.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. p. 16-17.
6 Kuczmarski & Kuczmarski 45-46.
7 Fairholm, G.W. 146.
8 Wilson, B. (2013, May 23). Cheryl Bachelder creates servant leaders. Retrieved
from http://www.regent.edu/news_events/?article_id=1593&view= full_article&preview=true
9 Maze, J. (2013, May 30). Profitable franchisees boost Popeyes’ fortunes.
Restaurant Finance Monitor. Retrieved June 22, 2013 from