Value Based Leadership
The scope of a leader for a country, a society or a business can be very different. What leaders across the scope of these organisations have in common is the ethical responsibility to guide and lead the people or employees who are part of it. The effectiveness of a leader greatly depends on their ability to become a role model for others. The leader should be supportive of his/her people. They should be prepared to shoulder great responsibilty. Also, they should be able to respond positively to risks and demanding situations. Most importantly, great leaders do not compromise their core beliefs and values. This is the essence of value based leadership.
Value-based leadership is a leadership style which is constantly committed to values relevant to the benefit of a whole nation, a society or a business/organisation.
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 with his comparatively very small force, the forces of Xerxes (king of Persia). They were estimated to more than 1-2 million soldiers. Leonidas and his men died in their effort to defend Greece and their values.
The United Nations summarised Nelson Mandela’s contribution as “embodying the highest values of the United Nations‑peace, forgiveness, compassion and human dignity. He was a champion for all people-in his words and in his actions. He was willing to fight and die for the ideals he held so”.
Leadership in business
What do value based leadership in an organisation and that of these famous leaders 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. ‘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
Leaders with those values mostly inspire others in the organisation. Sometimes without many words and simply being, by their presence, an example of integrity and being true to themselves.
This notion of self-sacrifice is not martyrdom or self-destruction. It is about giving up the needs of the individual self for the greater good of the whole. This trait refers to a particular character trait of a leader. A leader who has the courage to take responsibility not only for their own actions and behaviours, but also for the actions and behaviors of others in their organization. These leaders may influence and change cultures in a way which is often leading edge and take others out of their comfort zones. Their style of value based leadership is, in the end good for all.