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The importance of values to leadership

Submitted by on Thursday, 20 August 2009No Comment

The importance of values to leadership

Among the truly excellent research conducted by Kouzes and Posner in the 30+ years they have been running The Leadership Challenge, this one piece stands out – and seems especially relevant for organisations in Asia.

They wanted to know what, if any, connection existed between an individual’s personal values and those of the organisation he or she worked for.

Do we need to share our organisation’s values to be committed to it?

Among the organisations we have worked with, it’s clear that, where  commitment levels are high in some, in others the commitment levels are lower – sometimes desperately so – and in the latter group it has always seemed more likely to encounter widespread disengagement and disillusionment, as well as (worse) a complete disregard for any values whatsoever.

Which is where Kouzes and Posner come in.

As part of the research undertaken in The Leadership Challenge, they discovered that clarity towards personal values, not organisational values, were the key to organisational commitment, as the matrix below shows:


In the study (on a 7 point scale) it is clear that those with clear personal values (horizontal axis) believed themselves more committed than those whose clarity of personal values were low.

What’s surprising, however, is that those with high clarity of organisational values but low clarity of their personal values said they were less committed than those whose clarity of personal values and organisational values were both low.

This indicates that companies who spend considerable amounts of time ‘clarifying’ their values would be better served helping their employees clarify and articulate their own first – a core element of The Leadership Challenge!


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