By Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC
As a leadership development coach, the recent speech by Sen. John McCain on the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare struck me as a living example of Value Based Leadership.
What is Values Based Leadership? Brent Gleeson, a Navy SEAL combat veteran writing in INC.com, sums it up nicely:
“Many organizations will charge ahead for years with relative success while not having ever truly defined - and written down - their mission, vision, values and purpose for existence. At some point however, all great organizations have to define these things if they want to maintain that positive trajectory.”
John McCain, love him or hate him, has served in the U.S. Senate since 1986 and has during that time clearly demonstrated a passion for the institution and for what it stands. His speech illustrates eloquently how defining and connecting to core values is essential to sustainable organizational effectiveness….and what happens when is lost.
I’ve done some mining for values, and here’s some of what I found:
EMOTIONAL CONNECTION TO WHAT MATTERS MOST, GRATITUDE:
“(This) is the most important job I have had in my life. And I am so grateful to the people of Arizona… and the opportunities it gives me to play a small role in the history of the country I love.”
“I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history… They came from both parties, and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict. They held different views on the issues of the day. And they often had very serious disagreements about how best to serve the national interest…But they knew that however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively.
SENSE OF HIGHER PURPOSE DRIVING RESULTS
Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.”
“We’ve all played some role in it (our decline.) Certainly, I have. Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.”
RESPONSIBILITY TO VISION/MISSION OVER PERSONAL INTEREST/EGO
“Our system… gives an order to our individual strivings... It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning.’ Even when we must give a little to get a little. Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to ‘triumph… This country…needs us to help it thrive. That responsibility is more important than any of our personal interests or political affiliations.”
“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us.”
THE COST OF ABANDONING VALUES BASED LEADERSHIP
“We’re getting nothing done…Our healthcare insurance system is a mess… Something has to be done. We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet, and I’m not sure we will. All we’ve managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.”
If someone told me they have an organization that values the following: Trust, Diversity, Collaboration, Emotional Connection to What Matters Most (Vision, Mission), Humility, Connection to a Higher Purpose over Ego, Results, and Gratitude, I’d say you’ve got the makings of great leader.
If someone told me they have an organization with hard to define, inconsistent, or no values, I’d say they have an organization whose success will eventually become unsustainable.
Kind of like the U.S. Senate.
Perhaps a former navy POW and now U.S. Senator recently diagnosed with brain cancer who had the courage to speak and then vote the truth as defined by his values will serve as a beacon forward for this institution seemingly now lost at sea.
By Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC
Steven M. R. Covey’s book, “The Speed of Trust,” is a timeless gem for anyone working in or with organizations seeking to get more sustainable results. The very bottom line premise is that improving trust significantly leverages the efficiency of everything else you do. High trust cultures produce a “trust dividend” and low trust cultures produce a “trust tax.”
The same can be said for “Vision.” Vision paints a crystal-clear picture of why your organization exists. At its most powerful, a vision statement is an inspirational calling forth of the best an organization has to offer the world.
And, as I look around, I see many organizations busy with the execution of strategy geared to the achievement of short term goals, at best, and more often, the quenching of the fires of the day. A powerful question I often ask my leadership client’s is, “To what end?” This often results in silence. A slowing down. And, this is a good thing.
Sure, organizations can get things done and be profitable with only lip service to vision. Just know, there is a cost, a tax, to this approach. If we don’t seek to connect to our vision daily, we lose sight of what is important, what really matters. This often results in wasted time and resources. Worse yet, if we don’t have a vision, we are likely to come up for air someday, exhausted and burned out, asking the question “How did we get HERE?” and “WHERE are we, anyway?”
Connection to a crystal-clear vision lit up by the lights of passion and purpose, produces a dividend. Our vision is our guide-post that helps us determine what’s important and how best to spend our time and resources. When we are clear about where we are going, what we want to be, and the impact we want to have, we have the potential to transform from simply getting things done and maybe being profitable to being wildly successful. Dare I say, to “living the dream!”
In addition to Covey’s “Economics of Trust,” I propose an “Economics of Vision.” Substituting “Vision” for “Trust” in Covey’s model:
Decreased Vision = Decreased Speed and Increased Cost
Increased Vision = Increased Speed and Decreased Cost
Similarly, in Covey’s formula for organizational success I substitute “Vision” for “Trust.”
(Strategy x Execution) Vision = Results.
Consistent connection to a meaningful vision produces a “vision-dividend” that serves to multiply results. Disregard to vision produces a “vision-tax” that serves to discount results.
As leaders, we frequently don’t know the “perfect” next step. All success stories include chapters of “failed” steps taken. Connecting to a crystal-clear vision lets us know whether the strategies and tactics we are following are “succeeding” or “failing.” Is this strategy getting us closer to our vision? Yes. Carry on! No. Change direction. Vision paves the way to using limited resources more efficiently. And, gives us a reason to keep going when the inevitable roadblocks rise to get in our way.
At Vanguard Coaching, we asked ourselves the question, “To What End?” We knew our work was driven by our experience that there are many good folks doing good work despite their organizations. We then asked, “What if leadership in organizations worked to leverage the wisdom of their people instead of working against them?” Out of the silence (and some not so silent rigorous conversation) our vision emerged:
“High-Trust organizational cultures producing better results and better lives for every stakeholder.”
“To what end?” are you leading your organization? What’s your vision?
Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC, PCC is an Executive Leadership, Professional