Another Aspect of Value-Based Leadership
The role of a leader is decisive for a country, a society, an organization. A leader has, among others, the ethical responsibility to guide and lead the people in his country or the employees in his organization to a better future for everyone.
The effectiveness of a leader greatly depends on his ability to become a role model for others. The role of a leader is, among others, supportive and a leader does not compromise core beliefs and values. Moreover, he is prepared to undertake responsibilities and risks in demanding situations.
In this article we define value-based leadership as a leadership style which is constantly committed to values relevant to the benefit of a whole nation, of a society or of a business organization.
In the 5th B.C. century in ancient Athens, Socrates decided to accept his sentence to death by drinking a mixture containing poison hemlock. Although his students offered him help in order to escape and leave Athens, Socrates decided to remain faithful to his principles, values and commitments and not to escape to exile.
Socrates and his teaching method (known as Socratic Method) have influenced and inspired several more modern philosophers, teachers, coaches and others.
In 480 B.C. Leonidas from Sparta, another legendary leader, went to meet (see for example Wikipedia), with his comparatively very small force, the forces of Xerxes (king of Persia), which were estimated to more than 1-2 million soldiers. Leonidas and his men died in their effort to defend Greece and their values.
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” (Nelson Mandela)
Leadership in business
What does value-based leadership in an organization and the above mentioned examples have in common?
All three examples (i.e. of Socrates, Leonidas and Mandela) reflect an unusual trait of leadership which is called ‘self-sacrifice’.
In our modern business world one may not expect a leader to literally sacrifice himself for others but ‘self-sacrifice’ may refer to other traits and values such as:
- Taking responsibility for others
- Taking risks if this is also for the benefit of others
- Forgoing short-term rewards and/or own benefits for the sake of longer term common benefits
Personally, I feel very fortunate to have met at least three people with special leadership traits in my professional life.
Those people inspired others to work for an organization, sometimes without many words and simply by their presence, by example and by their personality in their own ‘silent’ way.
The aim of this article was to approach the often, in our days, unknown side of leadership, which is value-based as this has been taught (by example) from several more or less famous leaders.
This unknown side refers to a particular character trait of a leader, who has the courage to take responsibility not only for his own actions and behaviors and the results thereof but also for the actions and behaviors of others in his organization.
Those people may influence and change cultures in a way which is often considered as ‘not acceptable’ in our society.
Isn’t this strange?