Leadership By Values

Writer    :    Prof.Dr. Halil Zaim     LEADERSHIP BY VALUES               Leadership can be defined as “the ability to influence a group of people towards the achievement of goals”.[1] Despite the fact that conventional approaches in leadership have been emphasized many dimensions, spiritual aspects and value-based issues are not sufficiently taken into consideration. However, according to recent studies in management, it has been recognized that spirituality plays an important role in organizations’ as well as individuals’ productivity, success and performance.[2] Particularly, after the 2008 global economic crisis, which was occurred because of corruption and ethical problems the need for spirituality in business life has been dramatically upraised.               Not only religious scholars but also management gurus and practitioners are getting to recognized that instead of pure rationalist and positivist approaches, value-based approaches are necessary sustainability, peace and harmony in business life. It is mainly because, current understanding in business life that neglects values and spirituality causes many problems such as alienation from work, dissatisfaction, burn-out effects, work-life balance problems, lack of faith and meaning in people’s lives and of course ethical problems in general.             That is why a value-based approach to Leadership is becoming a necessity. It is an approach to leadership that considers individuals not only with their physical and mental dimensions but with their spiritual dimensions. If we want to bring sustainability, peace and harmony to our business life, we should try to maintain a balance between productivity and spiritual fulfillment. According to this approach values lead to behaviors, behaviors lead to actions and outcomes. Hence if we want to change behavioral outcomes we have to start from behaviors. Accordingly, in order to change behaviors we have to concentrate on values.             From a broader perspective leadership has three dimensions. These are: self-awareness, understanding and flexibility. In other words leaders must be aware of themselves in the first place. It means self conscious and self awareness.             The second dimension is “understanding” which means a leader must “listen and hear” his followers. He/she should understand what they need and what they demand. Empathy and individualized attention are very important in motivating and influencing people. It means that managers should break the brick walls that they have built between them and their subordinates. They should be achievable and touchable.             The third dimension is flexibility. In other words leaders must take environmental factors into consideration. We cry in the funeral and dance in the wedding. Here we recognize the contingency approach which indicates the conditional factors that affect leadership style. Therefore, analyzing the conditions, defining and seeing the change requirements and being flexible and agile enough according to these changes are extremely important in a leader’s success. The Reference Point in Values             When we talk about leadership by values another issues comes into question which is “what are going to be the reference point in values ?”. Because, when we talk about values, they change from society to society and from religion to religion. As mentioned before here we are underlining the spiritual aspects. Religions are the bases of spirituality. Hence we can look at different religions and take them into consideration. However, when we analyze the religions from a broader perspective we see that they all have similar values in common. From “Ten Commandments” to the teachings of Budha, from Christianity to Islam there are universal values which come from the “divine truth” from the religious perspective or from the “very nature of human being” from a secular perspective.[3]   The Consequences of Values             The reason why we emphasize values are :
  • Values are long lasting even after the founders are left the values keep on shaping people’s lives. Hence if we desire for long lasting transformation we have to focus on values rather than individuals. For a sustainable development it is not heroes that we need but rather it is the values that make sense in the long run.
  • Values provide commitment. It is a general leadership rule that people look at the values and how they are applied and represented by the leaders rather than the words and the preaches of the leaders. “Actions speak louder than words”. If the leaders don’t live what they speak then their influential power decreases sharply.
  • Values also require transparency and self-control. It shows us the limits of the leaders’ initiative. As long as the leader follows the values, followers can follow them.
  • Values are trustable and motivating. According to leader-member exchange theory values of leaders such as honesty, dignity and faithfulness provide trust and motivation for the followers.[4]
The Values             When we talk about leadership by values a variety of values can be taken into consideration. However, according to a field study that we have conducted in Turkey there are eight most important ones that we will underline. These are faithfulness, human-orientation, fairness, modesty, consultation, honesty, patience and wisdom.             Our research findings indicate that both managers and employees prefer to work with faithful leaders. It is considered that “the source of provision or nutrition for a spiritual heart is faith, and its way to contentment is the continuous remembrance of God”.[5]Similarly a research conducted in USA also revealed that the majority of people in business life think that faithful people should have self-conscious, self- discipline, sense of responsibility, and a strong cause that are supposed to lead their actions towards an ethical base.[6]             Human-orientation is the second value. Leaders should never forget that human being is the most valuable creature of God and at the top of living pyramid. No matter what ethnicity, color, religion or position they have humans are equal in the sense of they are all created by God without any superiority or inferiority. Hence, if we care about our people then they care about our business.             Fairness is also another important value for the leaders. In general fairness leads to balance, balance leads to harmony, harmony leads to peace and peace leads to performance in business life. Hence it has been mentioned that “fairness is the heart of management success” and “every consciousness and thought can be managed only through the justice and fairness of such a universal truth”. [7]             Modesty is also an important leadership value. A leader should know that we are not the owners of what we have. Ownership belongs to God and we are just depositaries. So, whatever we have are all given to us by God. Thus, modesty is the balance between inferiority complex and pride (superiority complex). Here we should not deny the gifts of God and this feeling brings us self-confidence, in God we trust. But we also remember that we don’t own them in the real sense. They are just given to us for some purpose. Consultation is the next value. Smart leaders know how to utilize their followers’ knowledge base and manage to unleash their talents. Knowledge sharing is the golden key to success. Hence consultation should always be at the agenda of a leader. Honesty or “truthfulness” is one of the most comprehensive values among all. Actually it includes most of the virtues. Honesty and truthfulness can be considered as the firmest path to success and happiness, and defined as “struggling to preserve one's integrity and to avoid hypocrisy and lying, even in strained circumstances when a lie will cause release”.[8]Only honesty can connect members to their leaders. We need to build our relationship based on trust rather than suspects and fear. If people believe in you they will follow you and if you believe in people then they will believe you. Patience and tolerance is also very important for the leaders. Manager (leaders) should be tolerant towards their subordinates and courageous towards their supervisors. Tolerance should not be mixed with ignorance. Tolerance means giving room for development and giving a chance to correct mistakes. Mistakes (if not repeated) should be considered as a path to gain experience not to punish people. Everyone makes mistakes and learn by doing. Wisdom is the last value that we underline. Wisdom can be defined as the ability to use the right knowledge, at the right time, in the right way. Knowledge is important only if it is converted to actions. That is why knowledge is important but wisdom is more important for the leaders. Leaders should be competent in their jobs and should emphasize competencies rather than individual relations and favoring. Conclusion In conclusion, spirituality is an increasing tendency in today’s business life. Actually it is what we need in this increasing wild global competition. Hence we have to emphasize the universal values in leadership for a more peacefull and successful business life. From another perspective business life is the mirror of a society. If we cannot transform our business life into a more value-based (ethical based) environment then we will not be able to transform our societies as well.               


[1]Stephen p. Robbins, Organizational Behavior, Prentice Hall, 2005
[2] Manz Charles, Cameron Kim S, Manz Karen and Marx Robert. The Virtuous Organization,World Scientific, Singapore, 2008
[3] Betzler Monika. Kant's Ethics of Virtue, Walter de Gruyter, New York, 2008
[4]Han Guohong (Helen), “Trust and career satisfaction:the role of LMX”, Career Development International, Vol. 15 No. 5, 2010 pp. 437-458
[5]Fethullah Gülen, “The horizon of the heart and spirit”, www.fethullahgulen.org
[6]Malloch Theodore Roosevelt. Spritual Enterprise, Encounter Books, New York, 2008
[7]Fethullah Gülen, Reflections on the Quran, www.fethullahgulen.org
[8]Fethullah Gülen, “Truthfullness”, www.fethullahgulen.org





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