This is the eleventh in a series of posts which articulate fundamental shifts in leadership paradigms from the 20th to the 21st century.
In the latter part of the 20th Century organisations placed increased emphasis on defining organisational values which, in turn, informed behavioural expectations. Since behaviour could not always be governed by rules, values provided a way for leaders and employees to make decisions when standards were absent or unclear. But the definition of organisational values posed challenges. Selection from a huge number of options was difficult, especially when everyone had their own understanding of what each value meant. Generally, no distinction was made between moral values such as honesty and more elective values such as learning or collaboration. So, thousands of organisations found it necessary to write “integrity” on their walls, as if anyone would choose to deal with a company that did not have integrity. If you can only have 5 words, why waste one on something that should be a given? People unconsciously rank their personal values which enables them to choose one value over another when they are conflicted. Sometimes you can’t be both kind and truthful. So in practice, personal values may conflict with organisational values which are then overridden even though the employee theoretically subscribes to the organisational value.
Although values will certainly retain their importance, in the early part of the 21st Century a few businesses have begun to root their behavioural expectations in a set of core beliefs, which can underpin a much wider set of values and behaviours. They may be defined with respect to any aspect of the organisational context, including the problems they solve, their competitors, the people they employ and serve or the solutions which they offer. Not only are core beliefs likely to be more widely embraced, but they can also be more easily connected to and link the purpose of the business, its strategy and business models, the organisational culture, processes and operational practices.
#AstuteLeaders have very clearly defined core beliefs which underpin their values, choices and behaviour. All of their business decisions and actions can be traced back to these foundational premises.
Reflection question: As an Astute Leader, what core beliefs define what you do and how you do it?
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