Expert Coaching. Practical Resources.

July 17, 2019


Joseph Inskeep

Leading Through Values

In the life of organizations, it really does matter whether leaders stay focused on the things that actually matter. For governing boards, what matters most is giving voice to the core values and principles that define organizational purpose, ethics and prudence.

It is all too easy for a board to allow inertia to carry its organization forward. But like all other living things, organizations tend toward self-interest and self-care. Organizational purpose can gradually default to continuing the patterns that worked to date. Therefore, the board’s primary focus should not be the organization itself, but the difference the organization will make in the world tomorrow. Carefully defining and refining purpose is critically important in leading the organization forward.

Organizations are full of good people, and it is all too easy for a board to assume that these good people will always make good choices. But in the whirl of activity, busy people can overlook important things, and poorly conceived incentives can undermine good intentions. Good people do better when workplace values are clearly identified. Defining the standards of ethics and prudence is an act of board leadership.

Like a lighthouse beacon, values related to purpose, ethics and prudence should be visible to all involved in the work. Making them so increases the likelihood that operational choices will be in accord with those values, and that competing views related to resource allocation will be resolved in accord with organizational purpose. As we know, the board’s job doesn’t end with establishing values. It monitors performance to ensure these values are lived.

Defining core values and principles enables the organization to orient to what matters most, rather than to what’s convenient or compelling in the moment. Board leadership is on display through the values and principles it articulates and monitors.



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