From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership

What is values-based leadership?  Well, it’s based on the principle of “doing the right thing.”  Kraemer writes of values-based leadership:

Leadership, simply put, is the ability to influence others.  Values-based leadership takes it to the next level.  By word, action, and example, values-based leaders seek to inspire and motivate, using their influence to pursue what matters most (p.2).

Now, there may be differences of opinion as to what matters most, but for those, like me, who come to this book from a perspective that emphasizes God’s concern for the common good, what matters most is that we learn to love God with our entire being and our neighbor as we love ourselves.  Values-based leadership, then, will get us to that goal.

Kraemer divides his book into three parts.  The first part outlines his four principles – self-reflection, balance and perspective, true self-confidence, and genuine humility.  If one just reads this section of the book, they will find much food for thought and foundation for action.  Part two takes those values into developing a values-based organization.  Here he deals with talent management, leadership development, setting directions, communicating effectively, motivating one’s team and executing one’s plan.  This is the practical section.  Finally, in part three, he discusses how to lead one’s organization from success to significance.  That is, it’s not enough to be successful, especially financially, if one does not end up becoming a socially responsible entity that makes a positive contribution to humanity.

The middle section of the book at times will require discernment as to how it will be of use.  There is much of value here in regards to putting together a team and guiding it to an effective outcome.  That said, those of us who work in small churches don’t have the luxury of hiring and firing a staff.  We can’t always choose who we will work with, for most of those we work with are volunteers.  So, the dynamics will be different. Still, there is much of value to be found laid out on these pages.

Where I found the most value in this book on values-based leadership is part 1.  These four principles – self-reflection, balance/perspective, true self-confidence, and genuine humility.  Kraemer states that self-reflection is the foundational principle of leadership.  By developing a sense of self-awareness, where we know both our own strengths and our weaknesses, we will be better prepared to take on a leadership role.  Self-reflection is a tool that will allow us to set priorities and make good choices.  When we’re not acting from self-reflection we tend to make bad choices, jumping in without knowing whether this is a good decision.  He notes, however, that this principle will require us to move outside our comfort zone, but the result will be very valuable.

Following up on this act of self-reflection is the principle of “balance and perspective.”  Balance, he writes, “is the ability to see issues, problems, and questions from all angles, including from different viewpoints, even those that are diametrically opposed to mine” (p. 28).  Having balance invites one to do the right thing rather than being right, and one needn’t know everything.  Something that Kraemer says that might cause difficulty for some, but which I think might be of value, is that leadership involves inviting input into the decision making process, but consensus isn’t necessary.  Balance, however, not only includes looking at issues from multiple angles, it also involves living a balanced life.  If, he says, we identify too much with our work then we’ll likely burnout.  The goal is a satisfying life.  Even though one works hard at one’s job, there needs to be room to “live life” as well.  A values-based leader, therefore, isn’t a workaholic.

The third principle is “true self-confidence,” which involves having an inner sense of one’s own self.  Again it involves recognizing one’s strengths and weaknesses, and building upon one’s strengths.  True self confidence means being comfortable with one’s self.  He writes that “although there will always be people who are smarter or more talented, you know you are okay and committed to getting better.  You recognize that your future lies in your existing strengths, not in your weaknesses.  You surround yourself with people whose skill sets complement yours” (p. 58).  It stands in contrast with false self-confidence, which is expressed in terms of bravado, arrogance, and the belief that one is always right.  When one has this true self-confidence, then one will have the courage to speak one’s mind and the ability to persevere.

Finally, he offers up the principle of “genuine humility.”  This emerges from self-reflection and true self-confidence.  It emerges from being grounded, and helps one focus on doing what is best and what is right, not in climbing the corporate ladder.  Having genuine humility involves three goals:  1) a commitment to grow and learn; 2) a commitment to adding value to the team; 3) and interestingly enough – having fun at what you do.  Raw ambition may get one to the top, but if one takes that route, they will discover that it’s a rather lonely place to be.  Ambition will not create allies or a sense of team.  Thus, you need to be yourself, stay true to your values, and maintain relationships.  Genuine humility involves recognizing that everyone adds value to the organization or the team.

Change, controversy, and crisis will occur.  It’s inevitable.  They might be minor or major.  Courage is essential, not because it minimizes the challenges, but because it “emboldens you to face the fear and do what is necessary” (p. 180).   Courage will also keep us from taking shortcuts that undermine the response.  He writes that “doing the right thing may not always be easy, but when you look at the bigger context, you see that it is the only true choice (p. 181).

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