the ceo magazine, values,
Cindy Wahler

Our values form the basis of our personality. These values permeate our personal and professional lives. It is believed that during what is considered our formative years, approximately the period between ages 0-7 our basic personality is formed. ( )

Of course ensuing life experiences also shape who we become.

Our values determine how we treat others. Respect, kindness, honesty, integrity, fairness and equality are fundamental attributes. These attributes define how we interact with others relative to collaboration, partnering and supporting the advancement of others. It is the essence of who we are and how we interface with the world.

Whether you are a high potential or a seasoned executive, organisations invest in their leaders to execute on strategy. Without top talent, strategy is just a theoretical concept. Great organisations find many diverse ways of investing in talent through mentorship, rotational programs, training and leadership coaching.

The ultimate aim is to support and enhance a leader’s capability to drive change through others. The best leaders make a difference when they foster an environment where their teams do not just shape but actually own the strategy and provide the necessary latitude for execution.

Leaders with the right values demonstrate faith in their talent by creating an environment where their teams can flourish. These leaders also recognise when their direct reports may be floundering and provide support by investing in the necessary skills or help transition those employees to better suited roles.

As a leader can you define your values? Values are your moral compass and in essence reflect your character. You should step back and ask yourself if your everyday behaviours reflect these values. The culture you create will be a direct reflection of your guiding principles.

If leaders do not foster the right values, the responsibility resides with the organisation. When employees fail and we allow them to do so there is a tendency to blame the employee. I would argue it is actually the failure of the executive or senior leadership team who actually owns these resources.

So to get it right and be an employer of choice, what should an organisation do?

  1. Identify which values are core to the existence of every leader. This becomes the very foundation of how leaders treat and interact with their staff and peers.
  2. Communicate and reinforce behaviors that reflect these values.  In every interpersonal interaction these behaviors must be demonstrated on a daily basis and interwoven in all efforts to drive change though others.
  3. When there is questionable behaviour ask why core values are not being demonstrated. If there is a skill gap then leadership coaching might be one option to help bring out the best in that leader. If however it is an absence of the right values then organisations have a different responsibility that must be considered.
  4. Zero tolerance for poor leadership behaviour.  Organisations must act swiftly by terminating leaders who do not align with core values. Most often corporations take way too long, providing a mixed message around what they truly believe is important in their leaders versus what they actually permit and reinforce.
  5. Create a culture of trust. Organisations must foster and create a culture that attracts and rewards the right leadership behaviors. Without this, most organisations will be short lived or will be sure to lose their very best talent.

Leadership coaches have a responsibility too. How your client treats you, as a coach is likely a reflection of how they interact with their peers and team members. As you work with your clients it should quickly become apparent if that leader values collaboration, is respectful, seeks to balance their ego and truly wants to do the right thing on behalf their team. As a coach you have two clients, the coachee and the client organization. Ensure you communicate to the sponsoring executive when you believe questionable values might be at stake.

It is evident and obvious that values cannot be taught.  We see this quite often. Organisations that either ignore these behaviors or try to “teach” the right values inevitably go astray and veer away from what they declared are their core values. These organisations move too slowly, lose the trust of their employees and create a culture far removed from the original declared intent.

When there is a misalignment in values organisational accountability is paramount. Just like how we raise our children, organisations must not only be clear and consistent in not just role modelling the right values, but also must take a proactive stand on what types of leaders they will not tolerate as part of their enterprise. Corporations have a supreme responsibility to look after their employees. To do anything less is shameful and a reflection of a lack of organisational integrity.

About the Author

Cindy Wahler, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a leadership consultant specializing in succession planning and talent management.

She can be contacted at

[Image courtesy: Alpha Stock Images]


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