I remember when I was the director of MBA programs nearly ten years ago, one of the Executive MBA participants (of course, a very well self-actualized successful manager, owner) approached me and asked: “And how the values must be shared in the organization?”

The opportunity to participate in Leadership Character conference at Ivey Business School, Ihnatowycz Center for Leadership, reminded me of this conversation. I replied then it was not just a matter of writing values and hanging them in frameworks on the office walls (though this is important as well) but first of all, to make use of them when making important decisions. This question was the matter for discussion during the conference. The role of the first person and top management as a role model in broadcasting the declared values and principles is also important. “Declared values mean nothing unless they are reflected in the actual behavior of the organization’s employees … The leader must see behavior and direct or change it through discussion, if it does not correspond to the leader’s values or profile.”
We talked a lot during the conference about what exactly we encourage in organizations and against what criteria the results are to be evaluated. There are examples of companies being the cause of financial crisis of year 2008 though having values that most likely were recorded in their handbooks and communicated to the employees, as well as incentives system. And it was the incentives system plus lack of character integrity of top managers that led to a gap between the declared actions and actual ones and evolved into long-term crisis.

Lately the whole news feed on Facebook is connected with electronic declaration and opening more or less real situation with the Ukrainian “leaders” to the Ukrainian society. If you compare a country with an organization, then the biggest challenge for the society was awareness of the magnitude of the gap between posturing of the country’s top managers and their real behavior. That is, between the declared and real values. And we can speak about negative encouragement and its necessity in “Ukraine” organization, where correct behavior should become an example, and incorrect, like non-payment of taxes, be punished by law.

Key conclusion at the end: organizations can have values – and a value-based strategy can become the basic weapons to win the competition. But the reality is that it is not organizational structures but specific people the values live in.