Saturday, April 11, 2009


Executive Summary

The ‘V’ Factor: Thinking About Values as The Epicentre of Leadership, Learning and Life

Figure 1: The ‘V’ Factor Dynamic
“A Values-Based Approach to Leadership Development: Implications for Organisational Change”.
Keywords: Values, leadership, leadership development, golden capital, knowledge economy.
  • I’ve never seen anyone derailed from positions for lack of technical competence. But I’ve seen lots of people derailed for lack of judgment and character… I see a real connection between what it takes to be a leader and the process of character growth…(Bennis, 1988, p 144).lues—and what we value—as individuals and groups, have the capacity to impact positively or negatively on our leadership, learning and day to day living.
  • The art of productive living, learning and leadership is in fact intertwined and our values, espoused or otherwise, are deeply embedded in this trinity.
  • Values are deeply held beliefs that guide our everyday actions and behaviours. They are usually tacit and unexamined yet they lie at the foundation of the decisions we make and the actions we take based on those decisions. The literature tells us that our values rest in all conscious and unconscious decisions or choices we make and such choices are ordered via our unique set of value priorities (Hall et al., McCann, 2002; 1992; Schwartz, 1992) as described by Argyris as our ‘ladder of inference’ (2004).
  • People view the world through the lens of their personal values and expend high levels of energy to defend these values (McCann, 2002), whether aware of these actions or not. Whilst shared mutual values can lead to harmony, understanding and shared vision; a clash in values can and does cause conflict between people. Indeed, the clashing of values is often the root cause of failed change management initiatives and a reason for the slow take up of ‘working with’ leadership practices which are much more suited to the knowledge era.
  • An understanding of value priorities and how we come to hold these leads us to greater self-knowledge about ourselves and our own defensive patterns. Importantly, through this reflection brings an understanding that the ‘other’ will have deeply held belief systems too. It is upon this reflexive practice that we can engage in deep impact learning and effective ‘working with’ leadership practices for ourselves and our organisations. We call this acknowledgement of values as integral to ourselves and to our relationships with others as acknowledging the ‘V’ factor at work in our lives.
  • Thinking about the ‘V’ factor and other knowledge-based intangibles is one approach to interrogate clashing paradigmatic views because values serve as a bridge between the past, present and future. It has been acknowledged in the literature that the intangible cultural shifts necessary to move agendas forward, be they organisational or societal, have historically been shown to be the hardest shifts to make.
  • Whilst history is a salient indicator of change, our focus values influence our day-to-day operations. Foundation values that have not been fully developed or matured will distort our focus values lens, such that we cannot move beyond the day-to-day operations to ‘see’ a possible vision of the future. Even today we see examples of the cultural lag described above by James (1996) in the proliferation of command and control mechanisms of the industrial era. Increasing reliance on compliance and surveillance, for example, are attempts to control order in an increasingly complex global, networked and information rich world. The machine-age, scientific worldview of ‘if it can’t be measured it can’t be managed’ is still prevalent but it is no longer appropriate because this view does not acknowledge that the real key performance indicators required for success in the new millennium are likely to be intangible. We argue that the overuse of such control mechanisms and economic rationalist single bottom line practices are actually part of the problem, not a solution. This behaviour is an example of regression under pressure to outmoded foundation values, diverting energy from thinking about the true purpose of governments, learning institutions, organisations and individuals for the future. ‘Working with’ practices, based ostensibly on values, are an appropriate vehicle for moving this agenda forward.
  • Future values provide the motivation for developing new skills because they reflect the future aspirations of individuals, groups, organisations and communities. Future values clarify vision and have the potential to pull us into the future because they represent a vision worth aspiring to. This point is summarised succinctly by Hall and Joiner (1992) where they state that “leadership development begins with visioning. Each time we rethink our view of the world, new value priorities emerge”. An example of future values-in-action can be seen in the trend towards the triple bottom line approach of financial, social and environmental responsibility, where values and profits sit comfortably together. Bragdon (2006) makes a case for this approach where “companies that affirm life in their mission, vision, values and management practices attract the most loyal employees, strategic partners, customers, and investors—and produce exceptional financial results”. Bragdon provides empirical evidence that his research subjects—companies operating under a triple bottom line ethos—surpassed those of their peers in terms of average credit ratings, longevity and growth rates.
  • As Figure 1 illustrates, the underlying ‘V’ factor at work in our lives is a dynamic entity. As values mature and fully develop they move along a values cycle. Focus values lead to the realignment of foundation values and the interplay between focus and future values produces value shifts; the process then begins again. Foundation, focus and future values then represent a set of conscious and unconscious priorities that drive behaviour (Hall et al., 1992). In organisations they drive organisational outcomes; in individuals they are a catalyst for change and drive learning. For organisations to fully leverage knowledge work and knowledge workers, an organisational change of mindset is imperative. The lag in changing the machine age worldview and practices is an example of James’s (1996) "vestiges of old beliefs” and urgently needs to be addressed in order to move to the more salient ‘working with’ leadership practices for contemporary times. To gain competitive advantage in a knowledge-based economy the golden capital of workers needs to be acknowledged, harnessed and leveraged and acknowledging the ‘V’ factor is a way forward.

8 Values of 1 Malaysia - Part 3: Humility Ref :


  1. Najib: Matlamat saya satukan rakyat guna konsep Satu Malaysia - Ruj :
  2. "Kita harus berani untuk keluar dari kotak pemikiran konvensional," kata Perdana Menteri lagi. - ruj :
  3. Perdana Menteri berkata sistem penilaian KPI itu bukan satu kaedah pemantauan semata-mata tetapi "ianya juga sebagai satu cara untuk membantu menteri-menteri berkenaan sekiranya mereka menghadapi hambatan (halangan ataupun rintangan) kerana keputusan yang dibuat oleh kementerian yang lain." - ruj :

No comments: