The values-driven life – 2

Whether on an individual leadership level or at the level of corporate conduct, the value proposition must be presented to and connected to the heart of the follower or customer in a way that wants to make him ‘own’ the brand. Furthermore, it should make him desire to be its unpaid ambassador. True influence is driven by values. And if influence is the essence of leadership, a leader ignores values at his own peril! Values drive the discipline of conduct.

How does a leader arrive at his core values?

A leader must first determine his CAUSE. The discipline of values will sound like just another good idea expressed on a piece of paper after being part of an inspiring seminar on the subject until the leader can predicate it on a clear vision of a destination that is to all intents and purposes, non-negotiable. Great leaders are futurists driven by a vision greater than themselves. This not only sets their destination. It also sets their moral compass. Every destination set requires certain disciplines to reach. Disciplines are decisions dictated by a predetermined destination. Before a leader commences a journey towards a destination in reality, he has completed that journey in his mind. He has considered the possible pitfalls and obstacles on the route. But when he weighs these against the desired outcomes, he decides in favour of the journey in the faith that the prize will justify the price! The sage Solomon said in Proverbs 29:18 of the Holy Bible that when a people is without a clear vision of a desired destination, they lose all sense of restraint! Values are the restraint, the rails that guide conduct as the leader ventures towards his goals.

Secondly, the leader must determine how important that cause is to him and who it is designed to help. A true leader’s life and vision are driven by advocacy and the desire to influence people. A young man was said to have gone to the sage Socrates in search of wisdom.

“Wise one”, he said, “I desire wisdom”

“How badly do you want it? the sage asked.

“Very badly Wise One”

The sage told the young man to follow him as he led the young man to a river. On getting to the bank, the sage held the young man’s hand and led him into the waters. When they reached a point, he suddenly grabbed the young man’s neck and dipped his head into the water, holding him down for a few seconds. Then he brought him out. With the young man gasping for breath, Socrates said, “What did you say you wanted?”

“Wisdom, Wise One, wisdom”. The sage repeated the act and the question and the young man gave the same answer. Not waiting for him to finish, the sage dipped his head into the river, this time more violently and he held him under water for a longer period. Then he brought him out and asked again,

What do you want young man?

This time, the young man was exasperated and practically out of breath as he gasped in response,

“Air, Wise One, I need some air”. To which the sage replied, “If you want wisdom as badly as you wanted air a few moments ago, you will get it!”

Furthermore, in setting his moral compass, a leader must ask value questions. How long do I want to be in significance? Are my actions for the short ephemeral purpose or do I intend to be relevant for a long time? Am I building a name or an institution? Am I leaving footprints that can be translated into a legacy that can be replicated with positive results? If I continue to treat people the way I currently do, how far will it take me? If the story of my life was to be told by family and those who know me, what would I like them to say about me in all honesty? If I continue with my present code of values for another ten years, what will change? Do I need an ethical overhaul or will my present conduct code lead me to my desired destination? These are some of the pertinent questions to which a leader must find equally pertinent answers.

In addition, a leader defining a values code needs to write down at least five ways he loves to be treated by other people, family, friends, colleagues, business associates, employer. Do you love to be respected by others? Do you hate dishonesty and love people to always be truthful to you? Do you love it when people deliver on their promises? Do you appreciate people going the extra mile with you? Whatever answers a leader gets to these questions must become his values window! The way you like to be treated by others must become the prism for gauging how you should relate with people.

Fifth, a leader’s strategy for connection with his followers must be advocacy-driven. This is why a leader is able to influence people. A great leader is the poster boy of a social cause that propels him towards service to God and people. No vision can be termed great if it does not help a significant number of people solve significant problems in their lives with the aim of social transformation.

Finally, every leader must be comfortable with feedback. To effectively achieve this, I recommend having accountability partnerships to hold you to your values. These could be mentors who have no reason to flatter you. It could also be your spouse. They have no reason to envy you or be star-struck by your rising profile; so they can be expected to be as objective as possible in their assessment. From time to time however, you need to go outside that circle and take feedback from subordinates and contemporaries. There are many things people around you would know about you that you may not know about yourself. Honest feedback will alert you to a number of such things. Remember however that feedback is not intended to make a leader’s head swell if positive or to deflate him if negative. It is simply an alert system that gives an indication of what he is doing well and what he needs to improve upon.

In a corruption-riddled environment where the dog-eat-dog rule always plays out, a values-driven life may not be popular but it will always stand out!

A leader who deviates from his core values loses his legitimacy to his position as leader. Compromise around his core values becomes the chink in the leader’s armour that exposes him to ridicule and collapses the bridge of trust between him and his followers.

When goalposts are shifted too often and without qualms, the game loses its allure and makes everyone in it a loser with no hope of a trophy!

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!




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