What do you stand for? This is a question all leaders should able to answer fairly easily but most struggle with addressing. I’ve been in many organizations where if you asked the question, “What does this business stand for,” you would get blank stares. Values are the building blocks of any organization. Without a common set of beliefs and principles, a company is like a ship without a rudder – adrift in a sea of individual interpretation and situational experience. It has never been just about making money but how you make your money that matters the most. And, the how involves many issues such as the way you treat your customers, employees, vendors, the environment, etc.
John Mellencamp has a great line in one of his songs that goes, “you’ve got to stand for something, or your gonna fall for anything…” In my experience working with leaders in both the for profit and no profit sectors, this couldn’t be more true. There is nothing more frustrating than working with someone who is not sure what he/she believes in and/or the difference they want to make in the world. By the way, making more money should be an outcome of doing something else well not the sole objective. I can sometimes quibble with what people come up with but it is very helpful and informative if I know what someone values and where they stand. A ship without a rudder will drift anywhere.
All leaders ultimately reach a point where their resolve is tested and they have to make some form of a moral decision. Words are easy. Action is much more difficult. Just about every organization I work with has a core set of values they have created to communicate what the organization stands for and the boundaries of acceptable behavior.
There is nothing more important a leader can bring to an organization than his/her values. It is the organizational DNA. Our values define us.