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Values Based Leadership: Use the Skills and Enjoy the Benefits

by Kelly Patrick Gerling, Ph.D. © 2000
Published in The Spinal Column
Nelson-Marlborough Health Services
Nelson, New Zealand, September, 1999


A number of my clients continue to make a commitment to implement Values Based Leadership (or VBL) in their organisations. To help others learn from their experiences, I would like to share some ways of using VBL and some of the benefits of doing so.

VBL is a model of leadership designed to help anyone in an organisation become a more effective leader - that is, a leader who contributes to the fulfillment of important values . . . values like trust and respect, dignity and cooperation, caring and service.

Based on my observations and experiences with many different kinds of organisations, there are a number of key ways of using VBL and clear benefits of doing so. (If you are not familiar with the processes in the VBL model, take a look at the VBL skills menu.)

Using VBL

As people get training in VBL, they begin to apply the inner and outer processes in day-do-day situations. Here are some of the ways people use these skills:

  • When there is something preventing you from doing your job with the quality you would like, you can request help, get heard, and give others a chance to give you the support you need.
  • If you are hesitant to bring up an unresolved issue with your boss, you can overcome your hesitancy with the courage that comes from activating your integrity and self-respect and by assuming that the other person will respect you enough to listen to your request.
  • If you feel unappreciated and that your work seems unimportant and unrecognized, you can request a discussion and then ask about the benefits of your contributions, or those of your group.
  • If you are a boss, you can proactively inquire about the status of relationship issues and values within your group, listen with empathy to what people say and respond when you can help.
  • When you get complaints or negativity coming your way, you can accept that the underlying reason for this is that the person's reasonable, healthy values are in some way being violated.
  • When someone does a good job, you can express your appreciation to them, whether they are a peer, a subordinate, someone in another group, or your boss. Tell them what you noticed about what they did and how you benefit from it.
  • If you do something that violates the values of someone else, you can apologise to that person by recognising the pain you caused, saying you are sorry, promising to do your best not to repeat what you did and ask for forgiveness. Then keep your promise.
  • If you are stressed, angry or upset about something, you can pause, do some healing, and expand thinking, before talking with the person who can help to solve the problem. That will help you to behave professionally while still being completely honest.
  • If members of your group fail to deal with important issues and people are gossiping about it, you can engage in a group conversation to clear the air, voice each person's concerns and seek solutions to the problems.
  • When you have a problem you can ask your boss for a VBL session. If you don't get that issue resolved with your boss, you both can seek help from your boss's boss or from the organisation's VBL facilitators (if you have them). The organisation may be able to help you and your boss resolve that conflict to create a triple-win for you, your boss and the whole organisation.

These are just a sampling of the many kinds of situations where you can demonstrate leadership to fulfill values.

Benefits of VBL

There are quite a few immediate benefits of using VBL which help make this kind of leadership rewarding to you:

  • By expanding your thinking, VBL can help you to increase your leadership intelligence while you challenge your old ways of approaching situations.
  • By enhancing your communi-cating, VBL can help you improve your relationships while you solve day-to-day problems.
  • By fulfilling personal and organisational values, VBL can help you to feel better on the job, as well to enable you help others feel more fulfilled and less stressed too.
  • By resolving problems where important values are violated, VBL can help you prevent an organizational "infection" where painful feelings fester and victim cycles expand. In this kind of situation, VBL works like the immune system of the organisation—it becomes a set of processes to identify and heal threats to the health of the whole. That enables the organisation, by opening feedback loops, to practise its values and to create and maintain a more healthy, more productive culture.

While VBL provides these kinds of immediate benefits, the growth of greater savvy and expertise in these leadership skills makes them even more easy and fun to use. VBL skill development is much like skill development in a sport like golf, or the skill development of learning to play a musical instrument - advanced skills come from the patient discipline of preparing, practising, and rehearsing. And using these skills gets easier and more fun, as you get better at them.

I hope you will take advantage of the benefits of VBL for developing leadership skills. In doing so, you help your organisation become an even better place to work, AND you make YOUR worklife more fulfilling and less stressful.

What to Do Now

There are a couple of ways you can get help with learning and using VBL processes. One way is to participate in a VBL workshop held in your area. Another way is to bring VBL facilitation and leadership development into your organisation.