We started with ‘managing by instruction’.  Do it my way, I know best, if you don’t like it you know where to go, my way or the highway, follow the rules, I am in charge ……….. Then we moved on to ‘managing by objectives’.

Achieving your objectives ‘come hell or high water’ is paramount within this paradigm – whatever havoc you create on the way. The annual appraisal round determines your future and your salary. In a time when networking, collaboration, ambiguity, and complexity are the norm is this really an effective way to manage?

Are we now moving into an era where ‘ managing by values ’ is the norm? Where the focus is on doing the right thing and making sure behaviours match our aspirations. Is the pursuit of Values Based Leadership now the biggest and best management game in town?

Why are values so important in an organisation anyway? Well, there are at least three key reasons. Firstly, with so much complexity values can offer guiding principles to help people. Secondly, values can provide a common and consistent language for people to help with resolving individual conflicts. Lastly, values can be motivational by helping people to find meaning and purpose in their lives, and in their organisation.

Where might people have an opportunity to demonstrate behaviour in line (or not)! with values? Here are some areas. Where you spend your time, and what decisions you take, send messages about values. Stories are a powerful way to communicate and inspire, and these can be about recognising values-based behaviour. It should be clear from your behaviour what you really really care about and how well you role model that for others. What do you do in a crisis – these are ‘teachable moments’ – where you have a high profile opportunity to demonstrate how much values matter – or not.

There are also some insightful statements and questions you could ask of yourself and your organisation to understand how far ‘ managing by values ’ has progressed:

what is the standard you walk past because that is the behaviour standard you accept?

do you truly understand the values of values?

do people ‘live’ the company values when no one is watching?

do you choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong?

are your aspirational values your values in use?

are you really as ethical as you think you are?

are your company values pervasive?

is the absence of bad behaviour enough because that is not the same as good behaviour?


I have worked in Organisational Development across all sectors with a particular interest in the central role of people. Organisations change one person at a time and my focus is on how to facilitate those changes.