Values-Based Leadership: 3 Simple Strategies

Posted by John Wright on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 @ 12:56 PM

“As I tell my students, becoming the best kind of leader isn’t about emulating a role model or a historic figure. Rather, your leadership must be rooted in who you are and what matters most to you. When you truly know yourself and what you stand for, it is much easier to know what to do in any situation. It always comes down to doing the right thing and doing the best you can.”

Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr. - author of From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership


Google “idealized influence” and what you might find is this definition:

Transformational leaders act as role models for their followers. Transformational leaders must embody the values that the followers should be learning and internalizing. The foundation of transformational leadership is the promotion of consistent vision and values.

Let’s see if we can’t simplify this a little bit, especially since several topics seem to be intertwined. What “several topics?” Purpose, Values, and Vision.

Purpose drives performance. It’s not just what you do but why you do it. It provides meaning.

Values drive behavior. It’s how you do what you do.

Vision is what excellence in performance and behavior looks like.

Remove the middle one and we fail at “becoming the best kind of leader” – the objective Professor Jansen Kraemer Jr. suggests we strive for.

What 3 simple strategies will help us do that?

  1. Recognize (admit) that “living our values” is an indispensable part of “becoming the best kind of leader.”
  2. Identify your top 3 values.
  3. Conduct periodic self-reflection and analysis to hold yourself accountable to your values.


May I assume you are on-board with the first strategy? From my experience in hundreds of seminars I can tell you that 98% of individuals have not implemented the second strategy – which makes the third strategy impossible to do.

Here is a simple way to implement the second strategy: Take out a piece of paper and for two minutes write down all the “value” words you can think of – like honesty, compassion, determination, etc. Then circle the 3 that matter most to you. That’s all there is to the second simple strategy. This may be simple, but it is profound.


Step 3: Set aside time to journal your success and challenges in “living” your 3 values.

This is what Coach Lou Holtz did to hold his players accountable for their behavior. Before a student-athlete was even allowed to play for Notre Dame, they had to answer these three questions:

  1. Can I trust you?
  2. Will you care about your team and put their interests first?
  3. Will you always strive for excellence?


These values – trust, care, excellence, - became the standard and expectation. When a student’s behavior did not “live up to” this standard, Coach Holtz would remind the student of the commitment they made and made sure they understood how their behavior was a violation.

Can we not use Coach Holt’s strategy on ourselves?



What's Better Than Motivation?

Posted by John Wright on Thu, Nov 05, 2015 @ 01:04 PM

“Leadership isn’t some sophisticated technique for getting people to do what you want them to do. Leadership is getting people to want to do what you want them to do because they share your purpose, vision and values." 

- Kevin Freiberg & Jackie Freiberg, NUTS! -Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success

What would you say is the difference between motivation and inspiration? If you had to choose, which one would you say is better? Just as there's a time for Transactional Leadership to supplement Transformational Leadership, there is a time for motivation to supplement inspiration. But what if inspiration is not a tool in your toolbox? Can motivation alone create meaningful and lasting change?


What is your purpose? What is your company’s purpose? What is your team’s purpose? The right kind of leadership – transformational leadership – cannot occur unless there is a clear and meaningful purpose. Here is how Geoff Colvin, Senior Editor of Fortune Magazine put it:

“The average American business lasts less than 20 years before it fails or gets bought. The ‘100 Best Companies to Work For,’ on average, are an incredible 85 years old. Bottom line: Being a great place to work pays. How do "Best" companies do it? Partly it's skill at finding staff-friendly ideas that don't cost much...But those are tactics anyone can match. Winning requires something more: a sense of purpose. Employees get deep satisfaction, and become devoted to their employer, from a feeling that what they do is good and right."

“…a sense of purpose… a feeling that what they do is good and right.” - remember that! Sometimes we get so bogged down with all the details of what we are doing; we lose sight of the big picture – why we are doing what we are doing – who we are serving. Organizations come into existence because of a need. Behind every need – whether a product or a service – is a person.

Gallop’s research has revealed twelve questions the world’s greatest managers ask themselves and deliver on. Here is number eight: “Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my work is important?”

Are you crystal clear about what your purpose is? What are your unique talents that allow you to serve in an exceptional way? How are your purpose and your division’s purpose aligned? How well are your division’s purpose and your company’s purpose aligned?

One of your greatest challenges as a TLM (Transformational Leader-Manager) is to help each person on your team achieve their full potential – both personally and professionally. Succeeding at this requires self-awareness. One of the foundations of self-awareness is an understanding of their purpose.

Take time this month to reflect on your unique talents and gifts and what your purpose is. Apply this to your personal and professional lives and become more of who you were meant to be. Then help those around you find and live their purpose. That is inspirational!

How much are "Bad Bosses" costing you?

Posted by John Wright on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 @ 03:04 PM


“Negative interactions (and the bad apples who provoke them) pack such a wallop in close relationships because they are so distracting, emotionally draining, and deflating. When a group does interdependent work, rotten apples drag down and infect everyone else. Unfortunately, grumpiness, nastiness, laziness, and stupidity are remarkably contagious.” 
 Robert I. Sutton, Good Boss, Bad Boss

Bob (not his real name) sure knew how to put dollars on the bottom line. So the company promoted him from store manager to district manager. His district put so much money on the bottom line the company promoted him to regional manager. Bob sure could get results. 

Then one day someone used the "open door" to complain about how he treated his people. HR called all his direct reports and asked if they would like to participate in an "investigation". They all said no. Then HR required all of them to participate. Did they get an earful! The stories were in some cases hard to believe. Bob was removed from his position. He was a bad boss and despite his stellar P&L reports, caused some serious damage.

There are a lot of Bobs everywhere. And as in the above case, the only people who know they are bad bosses are those that work directly for them and they are not talking in most cases. I have surveyed thousands of workers and they have revealed that 25% of the managers they have reported to in the last five years are "bad bosses". When I surveyed some senior managers lately their bad boss percentage was 27%! So this appears to be an issue at all levels.

Besides chasing off your top talent ( on a sinking ship the best swimmers jump off first), they cause talented people to keep their best ideas to themselves and keep out of the line of fire by doing what is expected but nothing more. In other words, bad bosses are the main reason workers are disengaged or actively disengaged. Gallup estimates that disengaged workers cost America around 400 billion dollars a year.

So if you are an owner or manage managers, who may have a problem. Our "Three Cs of Change" may help: Confront Contribute Commit. If you do not confront or admit you have this issue - game over. Don't even finish this article. If you will confront the issue, what can you contribute to identifying these individuals? What ideas can you contribute to improve or remove them? Then what will you do - what will you commit to doing?

What we need to become the best organization possible is leaders at every level. Not mere managers, but leaders. Bad bosses don't even make the mere manager grade. They are harming you, your customers - every stakeholder in fact.

As Al Pacino says in Any Given Sunday: "Now, what are you going to do?"

Earning Trust: What's Confidence Got To Do With It?

Posted by John Wright on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 @ 09:11 AM
"Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings."
- Samuel Johnson

Transformational Leader-Managers earn trust by demonstrating integrity and commitment. Is it also a requirement for a leader to have an unshakable self-confidence? Is a lack of that kind of confidence a trust-buster?

Belief is a form of trust. When  followers believe the leader has the character and competence to get them to their "promised land," it's a type of trust. "I believe in her." is not far removed from "I trust her." How can anyone expect others to believe in us if we verbally or non-verbally communicate doubt or fear ourselves?

Washington, Lincoln, Ghandi, and King faced extraordinary odds. Their faith never wavered. They trusted themselves (and a higher power) that they would overcome their obstacles. Their followers also believed and trusted them and the world is better for their efforts.

We are facing very difficult challenges - politically, environmentally, economically, spiritually. No doubt you have challenges at home, at work, and in other areas in your life. How is your confidence holding up? Do you really believe that failure is impossible as long as you never quit? If you don't trust yourself to get through the challenges you are facing, those looking to you for guidance might start to to get nervous also. And that will impact behavior and performance.

For your people to accomplish great things they must believe they can. They won't believe in themselves unless you believe in you and them. It's a trust issue.

"With realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world."
- Dalai Lama

Tags: confidence, leadership, trust

Earning Trust: Why Commitment is Essential

Posted by John Wright on Tue, Sep 08, 2015 @ 09:03 AM

"Desire is the key to motivation, but it's determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek."
- Mario Andretti

Last week in my post I mentioned that no one will willingly follow someone they can't trust. Do you think demonstrating commitment is a "non-negotiable" component in "earning trust"? If someone is not "all in," dedicated, determined, passionate about what they do, that's a trust issue. Their team is wondering how much longer they're going to be around.

Sam Walton - arguably one of the best business men in this century - gave us ten "rules for success" that worked for him. Want to know what he said was #1?

Commit to your business.

Believe in it more than anybody else. If you love your work, you'll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you – like a fever. I don't know if you can learn this or if you are born with it. But I do know you need it.

Can your team and your family trust you to show up engaged, enthused, passionate, and committed even in the tough times? In addition to earning trust by demonstrating integrity, let's earn trust by demonstrating our commitment to our families, our communities,our organization and our country. Our best days are ahead of us! I hope you believe that and are committed to making that a reality.

"Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work."
- Vince Lombardi

Tags: trust

EarningTrust Through Character - The Foundation of Leadership

Posted by John Wright on Tue, Sep 01, 2015 @ 09:02 AM

"Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships."
- Stephen Covey

Transformational Leader-Managers are the kind of person people willingly follow. No one willingly follows someone they can’t trust. The foundation of leadership is character. Who we are- our character – either earns trust or loses it.

Character’s first cousin is integrity. The word integrity comes from the same word as integer, which in math means “whole number.” A person of integrity is a “whole person” – made up of heart and mind, body and soul. To build your character takes a carefully developed plan that improves through disciplined practice not just your body and mind, but your heart and soul.

Earning trust goes way beyond not lying or stealing. If your team sees do things away from work that they know you would not want your spouse or children to see, your trustworthiness slips away. If you talk to them about others on the team in a disparaging way, they will see that as a character flaw. Lose your temper, put your interest ahead of theirs, or make a promise you forget to keep, your trust account will be overdrawn.

This month, let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard. Let’s imagine that every comment and action will be shown on YouTube. (It just may be!) Let’s make sure that our words and deeds are beyond recrimination in our personal and professional lives. Then not only will we be “earning trust,” but we will be doing something else leaders do – setting an example.

"Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character."
- Heraclitus


Tags: leadership, trust

How to Inspire People to Take Action

Posted by John Wright on Wed, Aug 20, 2014 @ 09:05 AM

Getting people to want to do what you want them to do is probably the most rudimentary or simple definition of leadership one might come up with, but it's true.  A person that is highly skilled at simply doing just that is the archetype of a great leader.  So how do you succeed at getting people to take action?  Here are three simple strategies to help you do that.

You can check out Simon Sinek's video here.

Will they listen to you when it's difficult?

Posted by John Wright on Wed, Aug 06, 2014 @ 08:28 AM

In a leadership role, it's easy to give direction when people are aligned with and confident in the direction you're giving and their ability to execute it.  But what about the other tasks you must ensure they execute as well?  ...The challenging ones.  The seemingly improbable or impossible undertakings.  The daunting or intimidating missions.

There's only one reason people will ever walk through walls for you.  That reason will always be because they trust you.

Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. This week I've created a quick video outlining three simple but uncommonly used strategies to earn and keep trust.

How to Trigger Optimal Performance in People

Posted by John Wright on Mon, Aug 04, 2014 @ 08:56 AM

Are you familiar with the science of happiness and the field of study aptly named positive psychology? I believe that it is impossible to lead without an understanding of those two things. This week, I've created a short video to share with you a few simple strategies that will help you understand and easily use positive psychology to help the people around you thrive in their daily activity.

Also as a bonus and in the spirit of positive psychology and happiness, we've decided to have a little fun with this video. As I was trying to get into a positive state for the recording by happily singing like Frank Sinatra and acting silly like Dean Martin, Jonathan, my videographer, unbeknownst to me, was already filming. From that footage he surprised me with an outtake. Against my original instincts to have him remove it and post a purely professional video, we've agreed to follow the advice of the great Roman poet, Horace. "Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans. It is lovely to be silly at the right moment." I hope you like it!

Aspiring leaders: What MUST you do to be followed?

Posted by John Wright on Wed, Jul 23, 2014 @ 12:42 PM

John gives us a 2 minute crash course on the 5 specific must-do strategies needed to be a leader that people like, trust, and willingly follow - not just a mere manager who's instructions are indifferently followed only as much as is required.

Tags: positive psychology, Transformational Leader-Managers, managers, Emotional Intelligence, employee engagement, small business, Inspirational Leaders, Championship Teams, leadership