What Matters: Do We Need a
Values Revolution?

What-Matters-ValuesWhat matters in leadership today? What’s most important if we want to build sustainable business organizations?

Maybe Gary Hamel is right when he claims we need a values revolution in business (What Matters Now: How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation.). In a 2010 Gallup Study only 15% of people rated the ethical standards of executives as “high” or “very high.” Nurses came in first at 81% and corporate lobbyists last at 7%.

It’s not surprising people lack trust in those running our corporations when you look at the first 15 years of this century. We’ve experienced leadership irresponsibility at Enron, BP, Hewlett-Packard, Countrywide Financial, Lehman Brothers, News Corp, Volkswagen and many others. (And that’s just in this century; the previous decade of the 90s weren’t any better.)

I don’t think we’re anymore amoral than in the previous decades, but because everything is globally matrixed, the economic effects of unethical leadership are magnified.

The critical point is this: because the decisions of global actors are uniquely consequential, their ethical standards must be uniquely exemplary. ~ Gary Hamel

Not only does a global economy amplify the consequences of unethical decisions, but so does the Internet. Thanks to social media, there is a heightened sense of our being interconnected. What we do matters. What our corporations do matters.

It’s not that we don’t take measures to ensure responsible behaviors. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 are two U.S. steps designed to curtail corporate prerogatives. More regulation isn’t always effective, however, because people always act from deeply held-beliefs. If you believe that your prime purpose in life is to win, no matter the costs, you will act accordingly.

It’s easy to find fault in the bankers and financial institutions that led to the recession, but many of the people working in those places made choices they justified as reasonable at the time. They were driven to act in their best interests, however short-sighted they were. And yet, it was wrong, very wrong, and the aftermath is still felt. You can’t excuse unethical behaviors in executives because it’s their job to make money.

Maybe we need to take a fresh look at ourselves and the values that drive us. The world is too interconnected to ignore the impact of decisions. What matters to your customers, your staff, your communities, and society cannot be ignored. In any leadership role we are charged with being values-driven as well as making a profit. I believe that’s possible without sacrificing one for the other.

What about you? I’d love to connect with you. You can contact me here and on LinkedIn.


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