Everybody has values, and these values trigger behaviors. And the complex of our routine behaviors shapes our life. Inner leadership embodies tasks of articulation and institutionalization of new and enduring values in work community members. Inner leaders shape values, articulate them to employees and customers, and persuade these people to accept the articulated values as their own so they will do the work their leaders want done. In a word, inner leadership is a values-endowing activity. Selznick (1957) says that leaders infuse the work community with value. The values that seem to work best are those that prize most highly individual work-community members, clients, and their leader.
Inner leaders succeed by putting their lives and their money where their values are. This may be the only way to lead in the twenty-first century world (Fairholm, 1991). Leading from a foundation of values requires inner leaders with the courage to act even if they risk offending others, leaders who are willing to stand alone on principle and who voluntarily give voice to ideas that are counter to the cumulative wisdom of their work community (Graham, 1994). Inner leaders focus on realizing their values and those of stakeholders, not just on task accomplishment. They lead by changing individual’s lives for the better. They do not merely preside over tasks or conduct meetings, they influence followers and constituent groups in a volitional way, not just through formal authority mechanisms.
Values are more basic constructs than rules. They determine a community’s rules and rank them. They are the criteria for selecting actions, goals, and methods. Values are learned. Some values are explicit, others are not. They nonetheless trigger some specific behavior and constrain behavior that contravenes preset values. A work community’s values are sometimes codified in vision statements or codes of ethics. These statements provide frameworks for transmitting and implementing specific behavior within the work community toward specific goals and results. They are powerful in shaping member behavior and in validating institutional policy. Values define acceptable action, resolve conflicts, determine sanctions systems, and are integral to reward systems. They define the desirable and acceptable for the individual and the work community.
Values are broad, general, and conclusive beliefs about the way people should behave or some end-state they should attain. They connote desirability. Individuals evolve values sets that define for them what is true or beautiful or good about their world. Work communities do this also. Either the putative leader creates a group values set or an informal leader does. Most people’s values come out of their early conditioning, experience, and significant events in their lives and are stabilized at a fairly early age.
For Burns (1978) the concept of values is crucial to leadership because values indicate desirable end-states. Inner leaders serve as values clarifiers and as communicators of values in the work community. It is only as inner leaders incorporate these values in their vision statements and actions and use them to arbitrate conflict that they attract and keep followers. Burns suggests that values can be a source of vital change in people and work communities. Core values like justice, equality, liberty, security, and respect for human dignity guide most people. As inner leaders reach into this level of follower needs, they induce them to change.
Hodgkinson (1978) calls attention to values as a key ingredient in work community interaction. He sees them as akin to work objectives, purposes, and policies. These values become “facts” in the sense they are accepted and acted upon by members. His concern is about the work-community “ meta values” of efficiency, effectiveness, and growth, which he concludes corrupt the work community and its members. While they are a problem for social humanists, the very fact of the power of these values reaffirms them as chief determinants of work-community members’ interactions with their leader. Nalbandian (1989) describes the work of inner leaders in terms of values like representativeness, efficiency, individual rights, and social equity. Rokeach’s (1979) work identifies values held in common by members of various social disciplines. He identifies eighteen core values and another eighteen values that are instrumental in attaining the core values. These relatively few values guide inner leader actions and behavior on the job. While more research is needed to make these tentative findings explicit, there is indication that values condition much specific professional behavior.
If past leadership theories focused on values at all, they focused on those of efficiency and control. These are fast becoming obsolete as inner leader values, though they still have utility for many chief executives. Rather, inner leaders form relationship patterns that rely not on values of external control but on those that give social and personal meaning to the collective work done, aid collaborative decision making, facilitate shared planning, and foster mutual responsibility for work-community success. Inner leadership is a task of creating and then maintaining work community cultures that support the larger corporate culture’s values and the dominant values of its leader.
Experience suggests that successful work communities are those that are defined by values that focus on workers as customers and that help stakeholders become their best selves. It is characteristic of our evolving society today that most workers have more than one choice about the tasks they want to perform or how they will receive help form coworkers or from which colleagues they will accept help. They are demanding to make their own choices about what they do, how they do it, and whether they will accept an order and obey it.
Hard work by itself is not as important anymore (perhaps it never was) as is making a positive impact on results. Values focusing on hard work and on performing work processes, not on attaining results, are only creditable in situations where the work involves repeatable work steps. In today’s world, customers’ product needs and wants change and mutate almost daily. To accommodate this reality, the work community must become more flexible and responsive. Inner leaders cannot afford complex, staid, slow-to-change workers or systems that cannot easily respond to the increasingly special, unique, constantly changing demands placed on them. Rather, they rely on developing and promulgating shared values to link work, workers, and evolving results.
Several forces in society interact to shape the values construct leaders use. At least three forces seem relevant to inner leadership. First, the workforce is changing. People working in the corporation—all social groups—today are older, more educated, more diverse, and more wanting (Plas, 1996). Their approach to work also is different from that of their supervisors and bosses. Whereas older corporate employees typically reflect the Protestant work ethic of hard work, dedication, and loyalty, today’s worker brings what might be called a bureaucratic or process work ethic characterized by a focus on work per se.
Second, contemporary workers see work as only one of several important aspects of their lives, not as a life-defining “calling.” Today, job demands are less powerful incentives for getting workers to do what is required. Job tasks must compete with family, leisure, religious, and social elements of their lives and work does not always come out the winner.
Finally, today’s workers often come to the job expecting their work to be much more responsive to their personal predilections than did their predecessors. Workers today have at their fingertips more information about the work they do, the firm they work for, and their industry generally than ever before. They also have knowledge—largely from idealistic media programming—of what is possible in the ways of personal perquisites, benefits, and support. Armed with this dubious knowledge, they come to the job wanting and expecting a work situation vastly different from the one their bosses envisioned as new hires twenty or thirty or forty or more years ago. Leaders in the middle of these new workers’ demands cannot rely on sterile system; they must bond people together at the level of their (that is, both leader and led’s) spiritual core values.
Two perspectives on the place of values in work-community life are possible. In one, the individual leader’s values are preeminent, and work communities are formed to serve these values. The other viewpoint suggests that work communities themselves also have values that supersede those of individual members. The sense of much of the leadership literature is that values dictate work-community action whether they emanate from the inner leader or from the community’s membership. They dominate work-community action, dictate reward systems, and measure individual and community success. Thus, control over values is perhaps the most significant tool inner leaders have to work with.
Much of the contemporary discussion about values still deals with the traditional value of work-community health and survival. It can be summarized by the statement that what is good for the work community is good (Scott and Hart, 1979). Supporting this overarching attitude are values of rationality, efficiency, loyalty to the work community, and adaptability. Individual values are largely ignored. Indeed, a purpose of leadership according to this construct is to displace incompatible individual values with the work-community values just listed.
An alternative construction of the contemporary workplace is possible. In this construct, each work community is bound together by a different set of values than those of the parent corporation. Each community sets its own informal rules and ethical standards that serve to guide members and shape its belief systems. In this respect, work ethics are like any other community’s ethics, they are a kind of group mind-set. The group’s ethics system relies on common values held in common by the members of that work community that set them apart from all other groups.
The following paragraphs summarize the values basis for much of the ethics practiced in American work communities. They seem, however, to fall into several clusters of values centered around ideas of integrity, freedom and fairness, family values, service to others, and personal growth and development (Badaracco and Ellsworth, 1989).
Integrity. A key work-community value appears to be integrity—wholeness and internal unity. Integrity involves the inherent knowledge of right and wrong the ability to avoid the wrong, and the willingness to stand up for what is right. A macro perspective of integrity includes abiding by the laws set forth in our formal legal system. A microperspective includes living by known and set values, showing fairness and candor in evaluating a follower’s work, and being consistently congruent in words and actions. The integrity value involves ideas such as honor, courage, truth, and continuous learning. It is a combination of discipline and freedom. It is key in any definition of work ethics; indeed, it defines them. Integrity is a prime value guiding leaders in the middle, where they are on more equal terms with followers and cannot hide behind formal authority or the intricacies of complex systems.
Freedom. Inner leaders base their relations with coworkers on respect for their freedom and independence and on treating others with fairness and justice. Values of fairness, justice, and independence have special utility in work situations and help prepare the culture for effective action.
Family Values. Values like family closeness, love, trust, and charity are also important workplace values. The Golden Rule of treating others as we want to be treated is at the core of these values. Faith in God and man, looking out for the other person, working for what you believe in, nonviolent respect for the sanctify of human life, happiness, enjoyment of life, and respect for others comprise for many their core family values. Inner leaders know that their coworkers want to be able to exercise these values in their family associations but also to have them recognized and respected in the workplace. Inner leaders who incorporate security for family, health and well-being, happiness, and fellowship into their work community’s values are responding to powerful ethical needs of their followers.
Service. Inner leaders practice the service value and use it as a bonding tool to secure coworker acquiescence. Service—that is, helping people realize their own power and using that newly realized strength to win improvements in their situations—is an important part of the complex of work-community values. This value embraces ideas of commitment, perseverance, and persistence in rendering service through work. Inner leaders see work as a place and a way to demonstrate kindness and goodness and communicate this value to coworkers. Belief in their own ability and that of coworkers and feeling that work is a place where both leaders and led can live up to their potential for service define this values cluster.
Growth. The opportunity for personal growth and self-development is also a part of the values mix inner leaders live by and seek to share with followers. These leaders see a need for opportunity to experience the full meaning of life in their workplace relationships. They want to find opportunity to continue their pursuit of truth and learning at work and foster similar actions by their followers. They see work as a time to find ways to let their talents mature and then use them to make positive contributions to society. Personal growth is a combination of discipline and freedom. Those leaders and those work communities that foster these values and provide this regimen may add to their fund of enabling tools.
There is an ethical connotation in inner leadership. These leaders articulate and confirm a clear work-community ethic. They use values in defining and focusing work-community effort toward acceptable and ethical goals using means consistent with these underlying values. Inner leaders differ from top leaders in recognizing and even emphasizing this ethical dimension.
Unfortunately, theory, literature, and reported practice are remarkably free from overt statements of values, except reiterations of the conventional wisdom of efficiency, effectiveness, and control.
Except for efficiency, many top leaders, like managers, advocate a values free workplace. The result is that the rise of management systems coincides with the demise of ethics in America. Many business entities and their top leaders have ignored ethics and the values premises upon which they are based. Hart (1988) suggests that society has assumed that, since we formed our nation on the basis of certain “unalienable rights,” present practice should still reflect them. While they profess them as benchmarks, many leaders and most theories ignore them as integral aspects (conditions) of leader behavior. Even a cursory look at ethics in America leads to the conclusion that many workers have taken ethics—and their values-basis—for granted. The result is a loss of ethical integrity.
In the long term, we can solve the really hard problems facing our work communities only if we behave ethically. Staff selection and training, culture maintenance, vision setting, and other tasks that ensure work-community success all have ethical dimensions. Top leaders have largely ignored ethics. So also has most contemporary leadership theory. The inner leadership model prioritizes ethical behavior defined by the group’s values.