Leadership Development Insight: Where Your Values Fit in the Decision-Making Process


Because values are so personal, they affect the way people think, act and behave. Hence, no two leaders arrive at the same decision in exactly the same way. So just how do values impact the decision-making process. That’s what we’ll be exploring here.

Personal Values: An Important Piece of Decision-Making Data

Managers usually ingest a fair amount of data before making decisions. I encourage participants in the leadership development workshops I give around the country to think of values in this manner – as just another piece of data to plug into their information machine – an important piece.

When thought of in this manner, it de-personalizes it to a degree – but in a good way. It allows you to think of your values in terms of understanding and achieving an organizational goal, instead of a personal one. And sometimes, this can make or break you as a leader. How/why?

What If Your Personal Values Clash with Your Organization’s Values?

This is more common than many executives think, because many don’t plug “values” into the data they use to make decisions on a daily basis. Also, many confuse values with skills and/or qualities. But they are completely different concepts.

In the behavioral-science article, Values-based Leadership, author Bob Rue describes the critical difference in the following manner:

Values and qualities are not the same. Values are who you are. Qualities are what you do in order to honor your values. For example, I am honest (quality) because I value personal integrity; I engage with people (quality) because I value their diverse viewpoints. Our values are not only those elements of our makeup that please us; they drive our qualities that others see.

Why a Leader’s Values Has Wide-Ranging Impact on an Organization

As values are a person’s judgment of what’s important, how they prioritize what’s essential will affect those around them. A prime example of this is Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting, which affected approximately 200 of Yahoo’s 12,000 employees.

It was a wildly popular policy and when she ended it, it was met with a lot of resistance. Defending her decision, she said in a keynote address at a workplace function:

… people are more productive when they’re alone… but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.

Mayer has made other changes at the company that could be looked at as a reflection of her personal values, ie, offering free food to employees and simplifying the company’s travel and expense policy into one that “humans could understand,” as stated in the Fortune article, Marissa Mayer breaks her silence on Yahoo’s telecommuting policy.

Become a Better Leader by Defining – and Living Up to – Your Values

Whether you acknowledge them or not, values play a key role in every decision you make as a leader. By clearly defining – and giving credence to them – you define your own personal leadership style. And as the famous Oscar Wilde saying goes, “Be (true to) yourself, because everyone else is already taken,” what could be better than that?

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