Leaders: How Your Values Affect Organizational Values (2024)

Summary: The well-being of an organization depends on its customers, employees, community, environment, and society. This article talks of beliefs, how they turn into values, how organizations can train their people on values (attitudinal training), and more.

Leaders, Training And Organizational Values

A statement of “Values and Code of Conduct” (or its myriad synonyms) of doing business is almost omnipresent in boardrooms, annual reports, websites, and random office walls of business organizations today, irrespective of their size and nature of business. All these statements without exception look very noble and “good.” But how well are they practiced across the organization, especially in times of ethical dilemma? How is it that some organizations end up cheating shareholders, exploiting employees, and breaking the laws of the land? How is it that CEOs and their teams end up in court and/or serve jail time or apologize on national TV?

We don’t need specific examples of large and small, well-known and little-known companies that have crumbled as a result of hubris, hunger for power, and greed of a handful of people at the top. Does this mean that organizational values are just talked about as a lip service to look “good” and because it is fashionable to have them on a wall?

I would argue that organizations misbehave (sic) because there is a wide disconnect between the beliefs and values of the organization and the beliefs and values of its leaders, who wield the power to influence the rest of the organization. Leaders need to examine their own beliefs and values and align them with those of the organization. They need to bring their empowering values into the organization while neutralizing their own delimiting beliefs. They also need to identify the same in their people and absorb what is good and block what is bad.

Individual Beliefs And Values

Individual beliefs and values dictate how our lives pan out. Are we successful, happy, healthy, in love, and wealthy? Or are we failures, miserable, sick, and lonely? Well, that depends on the network of beliefs and values we harbor in our brain.

Let’s examine what a belief is. A belief is an assertive statement we make just about everything. Life is…Success is…Love is…Justice is…Friendship means…Winning is…and so on. These declarations may be known to the person’s conscious mind or hidden deep down in their subconscious. There are literally thousands, if not millions of beliefs in each person. We all have opinions on just about everything.

When opinions combine with a certain degree of emotion, they become beliefs. When beliefs are assigned a certain worth, they become values. Unfortunately, most of our beliefs do not have validating data to back them up, either from direct personal experience or from careful observation and contemplation. They are amorphous, and often times tinged heavily with stereotypes, biases, judgments, prejudices, and cultural labels.

How do your beliefs affect your life? Your life is the sum total of your actions that arise out of your thoughts and emotions. Like lightning and thunder, thoughts come first, almost immediately followed by the concomitant emotion. But what dictates your thoughts? It is your beliefs and values that filter your thoughts.

For example, let’s say, you get cut off on the road by a rash driver. A normal emotional reaction is anger and your action is to swear loudly at the driver or grit your teeth. But before that, it is your thought that what he did was wrong. How did you know it was wrong? Well, it is your belief that tells you cutting someone on the road is plain wrong and you don’t deserve it. So, you become angry at the injustice of the whole thing because justice is a value for most people. The same cycle applies to every action you take. Your actions make your life what it is.

Organizational Values And Culture

Leaders: How Your Values Affect Organizational Values (1)

Values like Respect for the Individual, Integrity, Performance, Passion, Diversity, Innovation, Customer Commitment, Teamwork, Quality…are commonly seen in vision and mission statements of most organizations across the world. According to a study by HBR, 55%of allFortune100 companies have integrity as a core value, 49%have customer satisfaction, and 40%, teamwork. Most values are shallow, bland, and politically correct without being universally owned and practiced on a daily basis. Usually, it is the leadership and HR that formulate these “values” during out-of-office retreats and come up with nice-to-have value statements.

Like individual values, organizational values are those beliefs and truisms that guide the organization (read its people) in their daily behavior and like individual values, they get into the system without much validation and rationale. Organizational values are the sum total of the values of the individuals that work in it. These real values that engender and pervade the unique culture of the company are those which each employee brings to the workplace and practices every day.

However, it is leadership that has the maximum impact on the organization’s culture and values by virtue of their positional and individual influence on the rest of the people. Leaders’ conscious and unconscious behavior, driven by their own values, shapes the values and culture of their organizations.

They also promote or obliterate values other than their own, based on how much they are in harmony with their own. Poor leadership, while fostering values, behaviors, and attitudes that are inimical to the long-term well-being and growth of the organization, shuts out the good ones that others bring to the workplace.

Aligning Individual And Organizational Values

Leaders: How Your Values Affect Organizational Values (2)

Values guide your life’s decisions, especially when confronted with dilemmas. They tell you what is good and what is bad for you. They are the lighthouses in a stormy sea of life. Organizational values are also intended for the same purpose—to guide the company to take the right decisions and implement them for the benefit of the company. Organizational values spring from individual beliefs and values, especially of its leaders.

What are good and bad values? Ayn Rand, the Russian American writer and philosopher, defined values as something we try to acquire and/or possess. There are values that are an end in themselves and some that are the means to higher values. What is the highest value of all, a value that makes all other values possible? Well, the highest value, one that is an end in itself, is “life.” Life makes all other values possible. To the inanimate, there is no concept of value.

Therefore, life is the highest value of all. That which promotes life is “good” or “virtuous” and all that is detrimental to life is “bad” or “evil.” Life will tell us what is good and bad. Life encompasses all living creatures, not just yours. If you only take care of your life at the cost of others' lives, which includes all living creatures, you will eventually pay the cost with your own life. Life is completely interdependent. One cannot survive without the other, however small and insignificant it is. The same logic applies to organizations.

Why do we need “good” values? Because when we are born or when a company is started, we are an empty slate, tabula rasa. There is no moral compass to guide us. To survive, we need to learn how to, unlike animals or birds. They seem to know exactly what to do to live from the moment of their birth. Not so for us. Everything has to be learned. Very little is hardwired and instinctual.

Man has the power of reasoning and logic with which he continually learns and makes choices through his life—choices that are supposed to promote his life and the lives of others. Unless he knows what’s good for his life and others, how can he choose wisely? Therefore, ethics are a necessity for life; they are not a luxury.

Applying the same reasoning in an organizational context, the well-being of an organization or its “life” and longevity is a function of the well-being of the organization’s customers, employees, community, environment, and society at large. If, as a leader, your worldview is confined to say, profits and power, it is bound to negatively impact the other stakeholders in the equation. You will end up where you wouldn’t want to be.

Leaders need to think in a holistic manner, balancing all the essential constituents that promote the life of the organization. It is not the sole responsibility of leaders but of everyone concerned, customers, employees, and the government that need to keep a check on the leadership. In more ways than one, we are our brother’s keepers as we sail or sink together. Therefore, it is imperative that our individual beliefs and values are aligned with our organization’s code of conduct.

To align and promote “good” values, leaders need to first identify their own beliefs and values. For most people, beliefs seep into their subconscious unchallenged. They permeate their minds at unguarded moments from various sources. One of the main sources of these unfiltered beliefs is figures of authority—parents, teachers, older siblings, leaders, religious heads, bosses, and the like. The others are experience and observation. Rarely does a person deliberately chose their beliefs after careful contemplation. Beliefs are, of course, of two types: limiting and empowering. Ideally, we should keep and accumulate the latter and identify and jettison the former.

Any problem that keeps recurring, either in an individual’s life or in an organization, points to an underlying limiting value; it is just a manifestation of that value. Problems are the most direct way of identifying limiting beliefs and values. If you remove them, the problems disappear. Likewise, the areas that are working out well are because of the underlying empowering beliefs and values. Most empowering values are good for the individual, the organization and community, and the world in general. That explains why most of the values touted by organizations look very similar. But the question is: Do leaders practice the same values in their own lives? If the organizational value is “integrity,” how important is integrity for its leaders? Are they willing to accept a short-term financial loss to uphold this value for long-term growth?

It is a painful process to change beliefs and values. If you are not willing to endure that pain, you can never be a successful leader. This change should be “inside-out.” As Mahatma Gandhi exhorted, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” When asked if he would die for his beliefs, British philosopher and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russel reportedly said, “Of course not, I may be wrong!” But most of us do not have such strength of character. We actually die and kill for our beliefs. Open any newspaper anywhere in the world and you will read many such stories every day about individuals and companies.

One reason why we find it very difficult to change, even to just confront our beliefs, is probably because we identify ourselves too closely with them. Our self-image, self-worth, and our very existence are intertwined with our beliefs. We are mortally afraid that our very existence will be in jeopardy if our beliefs are proven to be false. So, we’d rather be wrong and miserable than right and liberated. But then, as George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright and Nobel prize winner in literature said, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” This especially applies to leaders.

Training On Values

As training and L&D professionals, we know that attitudinal training is infinitely more difficult than training on knowledge and skills. We also know that attitudes and behaviors are deep-rooted and very difficult to change as discussed in the preceding paragraphs. When we know good values are a necessity, and that as leaders we are the custodians of our organizational values, it becomes imperative we inculcate them in our people. Among other initiatives like policies and systems that encourage good practices, can we not train our people on good values?

Leaders: How Your Values Affect Organizational Values (3)

When organizations are training on leadership, teamwork, and diversity, why not on values? Of course, no training can make any difference unless the leaders “walk their talk.” Assuming the leadership is doing just that, a blended learning strategy that includes personal growth labs, workshops, eLearning, and microlearning, carefully designed and implemented can produce the desired results. If we can demonstrate “what’s in it for me?” and lead by example, I think it can be done.

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Leaders: How Your Values Affect Organizational Values (2024)


How does an individual values affect the values of the organization? ›

Organisations with high performance align individual values with their organisational values (Lagan and Moran, 2005). Hence, when an individual's values are aligned with organisational values, the individual's behaviour will reflect the goals of the organisation (Murray, Poole, and Jones, 2006).

How your leadership skills can influence organisational values? ›

Leaders can reinforce organisational values by helping their people grow and develop through goal setting, opportunities, and recognition. Elevate employees through frequent one-on-ones and regular two-way feedback. When employees have open and ongoing dialogue about their work, their trust in their leader strengthens.

What impact do personal values have on the organisational culture? ›

Personal values set standards about thought and sense unclear besides shaping the decisions and behaviors of managers thus constituting an ideology and consequently an organizational culture (Russell, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 22, 76–84, 2001).

How do leaders add value to an organization? ›

Leaders must also add value to organizations by, for example, contributing to positive office culture, taking customer service to another level, problem solving, being an influencer, streamlining processes that work, being a good listener, being a volunteer, and embracing their role in an organization. Mr.

Why is it important to align personal values with organizational values? ›

When personal values align with the company's core values, employees are happier and more inspired to do their job. There is an inner motivator that fuels their drive to complete the task at hand because they know that their contribution has a positive impact on the overall success of the company.

How can personal values and organizational values conflict in the workplace? ›

Value Conflict

The first is when an employee's values don't align with the job itself or the values of the company. A person whose values don't align with the work they're responsible for will experience stress, resentment, and overall suffering that can create conflict vulnerabilities.

How effective leadership plays role in organizational working? ›

Organizational leadership communicates the mission and vision, establishes the strategic plan, and inspires individuals to put forth their talents to fulfill the goals aligned with the strategic plan and, ultimately, the leader's vision. Traditional management fulfills only part of that overall vision.

How do values contribute to the success of an organization? ›

An organisation's values lay the foundation for what the company cares about most. It provides a common purpose that all employees should understand, work towards and live by. Once you define and promote your values, employees come to understand the behaviours that are expected of them that will lead to success.

How would you bring value to an organization? ›

5 reasons why (and how) to add value to your employer
  1. Be a keen problem solver. Employees who are eager to find creative solutions to business problems add value to their employers. ...
  2. Show initiative. ...
  3. Continually looking for improvements. ...
  4. Keep your technical skills up to date. ...
  5. Improve your communication skills.
11 May 2015

Why are personal values important to managers? ›

A clear picture of our personal values allows us to rank the tasks on our "to do" lists according to how closely each task is associated with what's really important to us. Finally, having a clear set of personal values helps us build the credibility and trust that facilitate leadership.

How do personal values relate to professional values? ›

Our personal values guide our lives, but our professional values should drive our career decision-making. By defining and acting on these values, we can be more deliberate in planning our professional paths.

What are values differentiate between personal and organizational values? ›

Values are the foundation of the individual's behaviour and attitude, and the organizational culture. More thoroughly expressed, personal values are an indicator of individuals' characteristics and organizational values are the indicator of organizations' characteristics in Lewin's (1951) interaction theory.

How do values and attitudes affect the workplace? ›

By aligning employee's values with that of organizations and by addressing the attitude problems of employees, management can increase the job satisfaction level. Satisfied employees are less likely to quit their job, or be absent from work, have less stress and will perform their job better.

What is a leader's role in an organization? ›

A leadership role is one where you are in charge of a team or entire organization. You have the ability to influence others and guide your team in a shared strategy. You're also responsible for building and maintaining employee morale, helping employees reach their full potential and inspiring employee loyalty.

What is the most important role a leader should play in an organization? ›

A leader's most important function is to set goals for team members to encourage them to work confidently and enthusiastically. They also then make strategies to achieve those goals. Their motive is to create a roadmap for their team members to how to direct them on the right path and help them achieve the set goals.

How effective leadership can improve organization performance? ›

When an organization's leader leads the employees in the correct direction and motivates them to continuously improve and innovate, the organization's performance will surely increase and be able to sustain the organization in the current complex business environment.

What is the purpose of values in an organization? ›

Put simply, organizational values are the guiding principles that provide an organization with purpose and direction. They help companies manage their interactions with both customers and employees.

How a values statement can support the goals of an organization? ›

They direct the efforts of people in the organization toward common goals. The values statement defines what the organization believes in and how people in the organization are expected to behave—with each other, with customers and suppliers, and with other stakeholders.

What are the most important values for an effective Organisation? ›

The four core values of an organization are integrity and ethics, respect, innovation (not imitation), and drive.

How can an individual add value to an organization? ›

I have identified six clear ways to add-value to your organization:
  1. Save money.
  2. Make money.
  3. Improve efficiency of a process or procedure.
  4. Improve quality of a product or service.
  5. Fix an existing problem.
  6. Prevent a future problem.
12 Dec 2013

How can an employee add value to a company? ›

Solve problems:

This is a simple way to add employee value without stressing yourself too much. The obvious issues which have been long unsolved in your departments are the one you should go for as you walk the floor. They are the ones which are called the Low Hanging Fruit.

How can an individual add value to an organization? ›

I have identified six clear ways to add-value to your organization:
  1. Save money.
  2. Make money.
  3. Improve efficiency of a process or procedure.
  4. Improve quality of a product or service.
  5. Fix an existing problem.
  6. Prevent a future problem.
12 Dec 2013

What is the importance of individual values? ›

Having a clear set of personal values is important because it helps identify the actions and initiatives that make you feel fulfilled, promoting your well-being and self-respect. When your actions align with your values, you're more likely to feel satisfied with your decisions and relationships.

Why is individual value important? ›

Personal values influence our actions, relationships, and overall lives. Our values also guide us as we make big decisions and can influence our personal development.

How values and ethics affect individual and Organisational Behaviour? ›

Values reflect the priorities that govern the organisation and highlights what is important for the organisation. Values show what the organisation stands for and believes in, while also informing its mission, goals and purpose. Values and ethics both guide and influence organisational behaviour.

What value you can bring to the organization? ›

Think about: your enthusiasm for the profession and the employer and your desire to make your mark. your personal qualities, such as your drive and willingness to learn. the skills the employer seeks and how you have demonstrated them in the past – your answer should show why you would be competent in the job.

How do you maintain your values? ›

Maintaining Personal Values
  1. Set an example in everything you do that displays the values you want the organization to portray. ...
  2. Treat those who are in your organization as if they were your family. ...
  3. Focus on culture as a part of every action you take. ...
  4. Ask questions that reflect on your personal values.
8 Jul 2016

Why are values important to a business? ›

An organisation's values lay the foundation for what the company cares about most. It provides a common purpose that all employees should understand, work towards and live by. Once you define and promote your values, employees come to understand the behaviours that are expected of them that will lead to success.

How do you develop your values? ›

Guide to determine your values
  1. Write down your values. Review the list of examples of core values above and write down every value that resonates with you. ...
  2. Consider the people you most admire. ...
  3. Consider your experiences. ...
  4. Categorize values into related groups. ...
  5. Identify the central theme. ...
  6. Choose your top core values.

How do you define your values? ›

Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. They (should) determine your priorities, and, deep down, they're probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to.

How do values and attitudes affect the workplace? ›

By aligning employee's values with that of organizations and by addressing the attitude problems of employees, management can increase the job satisfaction level. Satisfied employees are less likely to quit their job, or be absent from work, have less stress and will perform their job better.

How does employee personal value affect strategic value? ›

If your team members see the “value” of your goal, they are more likely to jump on board with your ideas and suggestions. If increasing the value of your company affects them in a positive manner, then they will value your ideas and help you achieve your company's goal.

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