Morals and Values in Leadership: Is that still a thing?

This article delves into the ethical dimensions of business leadership, emphasizing the influence of personal and organizational morals on business success. It's a must-read for leaders aiming to navigate the delicate balance between integrity and competitive success.

Morals and Values in Leadership: Is that still a thing?

I think that one of the challenges in my personality type related to morals and values is that I always want to get the best outcomes for everyone in the room. I don’t feel that me winning means that it is the best win. At the same time, I do have a relentless drive to win. Perhaps it is the result of growing up playing sports; we always had a drive to win and realized that if we didn’t win one game, we would always work hard to win the next one.  If we didn’t win the season, there was always next season.  We never looked at it as, “Oh well,” but rather, “What do we need to do differently?”

As a business owner, my thinking hasn’t changed.

In conversation with a friend of mine, he found that one of his proposals was beaten out by a highly ranked global organization.  His thinking was: a) I was considered.  This was a goal and a win by itself; b) What can I do next time to improve the likelihood of that win? and c) How do I make that win repeatable?

What I love about my friend is that regardless of the scenario, while he is in pursuit of the win, he never compromises his morals and values in order to get the win.  He is NOT at the top of the leaderboard.  A lot of people disagree with the way that he does some of the things that he does.  He is outspoken and has at times put his foot in his mouth. Nevertheless, he is committed to building organizations that reflect the morals and values that he has established for himself.

One of the cool things about this scenario is that even though he shared the struggles that he has faced with growing his company, he has doubled down on his commitment to his morals and values, which has actually caused his circle of influence to get smaller.  At the same time, however, he is aligned with people who share his morals and values and who, overall, are more effective for him and the growth of his companies.

Upholding Ethics in Business Operations

As a technical operator, I cannot say that I have had the same level of struggles with morals and ethics in relation to people as he has.  My struggles have more to do with the operational side of the business and ensuring that it is progressive and profitable.  It is great to do what I love in business, but the other parts of running the business are where I might want to cut corners.  For example, I believe in maximizing value for our clients and being of service to them where they are.  So instead of offering packages of services that I can quickly throw together at standard prices, we build custom solutions for our clients based on their specific challenge at a price they can afford.

I have to be intentional about this.  Interestingly, as with my friend, experience has enabled me to double-down on my morals and values. This has meant that I cannot work with every company that crosses my doorstep, whether for is the type of business, the type of owner, their budget or our ability to deliver solutions for them.

The Role of Morals and Values in Effective Leadership

So, the question becomes: do morals and values in business help companies to win?  I would argue that there are at least  four areas that a leader should consider when answering that question:

  1. Leaders with high morals and values inspire people around them to pursue something bigger than themselves. Morals and values have everything to do with how you interact with other people.  If you act immorally, people around you will suffer.  If your values are unclear, people won’t know how to interact with you.  By demonstrating that you have both morals and values, you are likely to impact the people around you to simply do better because you are establishing a high trust environment which, according to Prometis Partners, Inc., is foundational to shaping company values and culture.
  2. Moral leaders set and maintain a standard by which they define success and do business. The difficulty with many companies is that they define success and the way that they do business only by financial gain: the more, the better. This is the lesson that we’ve learned from Wall Street. However, an argument could be made that money is the byproduct of doing business well.  It has been demonstrated that companies which have alignment with purpose and vision tend to be more productive, more profitable and have greater longevity. They tend to withstand the storms and make a greater, more positive impact on those that they serve.
  3. Values-driven leaders have a purpose bigger than themselves that impact peoples Interestingly, values provide the framework for boundaries.  Boundaries provide us with limitations of what we will or won’t allow for us; or, in this case, for our organizations.  When we understand our values in light of a purpose, the two tend to support one another. For example, my values tell me to treat people with honor and respect and to help them to achieve their goals.  My purpose is to educate, equip and inspire people to pursue extraordinary dreams. Alignment between the two allows me to establish boundaries about who I will and won’t serve and forces me to focus on those whom I can invest in.
  4. Values-driven companies are more stable because people follow people they like and respect. While it is easier to work in a non-toxic environment, the desire to invest extra time in your job or company comes with understanding that you are working toward something bigger than yourself.  It comes from being valued, appreciated and respected.  Creating an environment such as this is a result of establishing a culture wherein people are treated in a way that is attractive for them.  It does not mean, however, that the environment is attractive for everyone.  It means it will be attractive for people who share the values espoused by the company.

The Leader’s Responsibility in Shaping Organizational Culture

As leaders, it is our responsibility to establish the morals and values that will define our companies. In an article from Working Resources, the author states that “Leaders are the most important and powerful influence on the culture of an organization and are responsible for creating credibility and trust. It is obvious that employees contribute more when they are working for something they believe in.”  The buck stops here. This is a key part of our responsibility.

As our companies grow, unless we have established these standards ahead of time, it is very difficult to maintain them.  If they are established, but are not formal, they will be subject to interpretation.  While not everyone is wired the same – and morals and values may appear to be different / have different definitions – by being intentional about establishing them, you are setting your organization up to attract the type of people who will help to carry your vision forward.

If you’re grappling with the delicate balance of integrating ethics into your leadership while driving business success, remember, you’re not alone. Many leaders face the challenge of aligning their personal values with their business goals.

Aepiphanni Business Consulting specializes in guiding leaders through these complex dynamics. Let’s explore how our business transformation program can revolutionize your approach to ethical leadership and operational success. Join us for a Coffee & Consult to discuss your unique situation. Click here to register.

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