Values-Based Transformational Leadership

Values are fundamental motivators for people. When values guide decision-making, they shape what emerges in action, help align ‘talk and walk’, and foster a sense of integrity. Richard Barrett most recently defined values as ‘the energetic containers of our aspirations and intentions’. See for reflection and online discussion.

Transformation involves much more than ordinary change. When something or someone is transformed, there is no going back to the old ways – just as the ingredients in a cake can’t be reclaimed after the cake is baked. Something new is created. That can be scary, but when experienced as a collective adventure that makes a positive contribution, I think people can rise to the occasion.

Some models of leadership call for collaboration, teamwork, and shared values in achieving whatever has been declared important and purposeful. However, in too many cases, that call ultimately is marginalized and deemed ‘soft’ or irrelevant to achieving desired results. I disagree with that view.

It think that marginalizing values and discounting true collaboration, when striving for improvement or progress, only alienate people who long to make a difference, share their gifts and skills, and participate in something meaningful. They feel helpless, disempowered, discouraged, and discounted. That situation needs to be transformed and called into service for the greater good.

We have values in several areas of our lives: personal values that guide and influence our individual lives; values that guide and influence how we relate interpersonally with others; and collective values that emerge in families, organizations, institutions, and societies. Ideally, we participate in choosing collective values. Otherwise, we must determine whether those collective values align with our own.

Many leadership roles I held in high school, university, business, and community organizations were based on collaboration and values, and they did make a difference. While at the Union Pacific, I was involved in leadership aimed at cultural and organizational effectiveness, and values were part of that. When I received my Masters in Human Relations, organizational transformation was a core component.

Several difficult decisions I’ve made over the years have centered on whether certain situations had begun to compromise my values and sense of integrity. It’s very challenging to discern when to ‘hang in there’ with perseverance and when to say ‘no’ to something that threatens one’s sense of integrity.

CTT Consultant BVC LogoIn 2006 I became a Certified Facilitator/Consultant of the Cultural Transformation Tools (CTT) created by the Barrett Values Centre. We used a CTT values assessment with chaplains at the University of Edinburgh, and that led to deepened experiences of friendship, community, and great accomplishment as a multifaith chaplaincy. Last year a number of CTT facilitators/consultants and others formed the UK Values Alliance.

In the last two years I helped start the Globally Just Leadership Community as part of the Global Justice Academy at the University of Edinburgh. We promote core values and plan to bring together people already involved in globally just leadership. At the same time, I am a team member with the University’s What’s A University For? initiative, and along with others within the University, we’re currently looking at overall University values.

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