Intent Blog

The Challenge of Value-Driven Leadership

We have been arguing for an extended period of time now that value-driven leadership is essential for organisational success. This contention is based a few axiomatic assumptions about organisational success and leadership. The first assumption is that organisational success is accounted for on the basis of the contributions of the individuals within the organisation. Essentially, any group is a community of individuals who all work together to add value. A surplus is created through their collective efforts but crucially, this surplus only exists insofar as, collectively, individuals within the group have given more than what they have taken; collective value-adding contributions have exceeded collective withdrawals as it were.

If organisational success is to be accounted for on the basis of individuals within the organisation giving more than what they are taking, then the next question is: what is required in order for individuals to willingly give more to a group than they take out of it? How do we cultivate givers within an organisation, these individuals who create prosperous groups through their value-adding contributions?

Well clearly there has to be some level of commitment to the organisation’s agenda. This is the sort of phenomenon that is often referred to as “employee engagement”. They are not just there for the pay check, they are committed to the work they do and they will go the extra mile for their organisation.

Crucially however, we must understand that people will very seldom go the extra mile for an ideal (there are those that will of course) and even less that will go the extra mile for an organisation. People will however consistently go the extra mile for the people who have exerted a significant and positive influence in their lives. This is where value-driven leadership fits in. It is the value-driven leader who unlocks this commitment by demonstrating care for his people and helping his people grow and develop. This sort of leadership cultivates a strong mutual respect and commitment. This is the gold dust that cultivates deeply cooperative groups who are committed to each other and work hard in pursuit of a larger objective. If this is the bedrock of an organisation then it cannot fail to be successful.

This is the reason we have been arguing for value-driven leadership, we recognise that it is the gold dust for organisational success. Implementing value-driven leadership is however challenging  in today’s results driven society. Though perceptions are starting to shift, there is still the common belief that leadership is a matter of getting results. The thought is that it is results that matter, so when there is a toss up between results and looking after and growing one’s people, the leader must always choose the course that produces the result.

Value-driven leadership directly challenges this assumption. Results, according to value-driven leadership approaches are not the primary concern of the leader. It is necessary that the value-driven leader is not willing to sacrifice the best interests of his people in favour of results. Value-driven leadership seeks to put people first and it is precisely this putting people first that in fact accounts for organizational success. But this requires courage and trust on behalf of leadership. Leaders need to trust that, even though their actions may at times appear to be at odds with producing the desired results, in the long run putting people first is the best and most sustainable leadership choice. The value-driven leader needs to be able to stick to his guns and be strong enough to build his people,
with the awareness that the results will come when his people have been taken care of and are flourishing. 

It is increasingly becoming essential for leaders to start developing the courage to put their people first and dampen their fixation on achieving results. Happily, the leader that gets things right with his/her people will see improved results because better and more committed people will always produce better results. The challenge is the switch in focus and it is a challenge because it requires the leader to go against the grain.

Assad holds a Masters in Philosophy from the University of the Witwatersrand and is currently a PhD candidate. He is the editor of the Schuitema blog and is a regular facilitator of the company's Care and Growth and Mentoring for Mastery programs. He also has 5 years experience lecturing and tutoring Philosophy at Wits.