4 Essentials for Your Values-Based Leadership Toolbox

To lead is to influence others. Values-based leadership takes it a step further, seeking to influence others according to a set of values. When leaders and their organizations are grounded in the values-based approach of doing the right thing, everyone can benefit.

The bottom line for any business is generating shareholder return. But instead of taking the transactional route of “I win/ you lose” and trying to squeeze every dime out of every transaction, values-based leadership requires a more holistic approach. First, talent. The best people can work just about anywhere. Values-based organizations seek to attract high-caliber talent by being mission-driven.

In addition, values-based enterprises establish long-term customer relationships that are “win/win” and grounded in the premise of doing the right thing. With the best people and strong customer rapport, values-based organizations put themselves in a position to generate a great return.

“To become values-based, leaders must be dedicated to becoming their best self.”

How, then, can leaders and organizations become values-based? It starts with the individual, from the newest team member to the CEO, who are dedicated to becoming their “best self”—a process defined by 4 key principles that are essentials for the values-based leadership toolbox.

1. Self-Reflection—the most important tool. Self-reflection is the gateway to self-awareness, to understand yourself and your values as you relate to and influence others. Personally, I engage in self-reflection at the end of the day when I ask myself questions such as: Did I do what I said I was going to do—and if not, why not? Did I fall short of expectations? How did I treat people? If I could live the day over again, what would I do differently?

Mark Neaman, president and CEO of NorthShore University HealthSystem, links self-reflection and leadership because it heightens awareness of how leaders interact with others. He states: “Are you hard driving and thinking big thoughts, but never losing your humility because you know you can’t accomplish those dreams all by yourself?”

2. Balance—more input for better decisions. Being your best self means you value balance in how you view any issue or challenge by taking in as many perspectives as possible. During my years at Baxter International, including those as the CEO, it was never a choice between reaching a decision quickly or gathering more input. If the decision could be better, stronger, or more assured by reaching out to colleagues and teammates whose input we could gather quickly, that’s what we had to do to be balanced in our perspective.

3. True Self-Confidence—knowing what you know and what you don’t know. True self-confidence comes from the knowledge of who you are and what you stand for.

You acknowledge your skills and accomplishments; you admit when you don’t know the

answer or when you are wrong. True self-confidence also fosters “best partnerships” that lead to win-win arrangements because each party knows its expertise. Mark Thierer, chairman and CEO of Catamaran Corp., one of the largest pharmacy benefit managers in the U.S., credits this thinking for a 10-year contract with Cigna worth an estimated $5 billion—a significant milestone given that Catamaran wasn’t the biggest player in this market.

4. Genuine Humility—showing respect to everyone. Genuine humility is the belief that no one is more important than anyone else and that every contributor should be recognized. Jai Shekhawat, co-founder of Fieldglass, a vendor systems management company that was sold to SAP for a reported $1 billion, observes: “A person who is contributing and feels that they’ve helped shape the company will treat it like their child. These are the roots of loyalty.”

Your best self is not a destination; it is an ongoing process. These 4 principles are the essential tools in the values-based leadership toolbox to become your best self.



  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events