Values-based leadership is based on four principles: self-reflection, balance, true self-confidence, and genuine humility.
Self-reflection is essential for determining one’s values, as well as analyzing choices and decisions. Kraemer believes that it is not possible to simply imitate the leadership style of someone else. Instead, authentic leadership comes from self-understanding. One of the major benefits of self-reflection is that it enables people to take time out and evaluate situations from a holistic perspective. In this way, leaders can identify certain decision-making patterns. Self-reflection also helps leaders to prioritize decisions and focus on areas where the organization is most likely to succeed. There are many different ways to engage in self-reflection, such as keeping a journal. However, the most important aspect of this practice is to reserve periods of quiet time where it will be possible to focus on what matters most. Kramer notes that he engages in self-reflection each day and on an annual basis, he goes to a silent retreat. Through self-reflection, it is possible for leaders to make decisions that are in proper alignment with their values.
Balance and Perspective
Balance and perspective is the second principle of valued-based leadership. When individuals take a balanced viewpoint in the workplace, they can see issues from many different perspectives. As a result, decisions can be made with a better understanding of their broad impact. One way that leaders achieve balance is by gathering input from team members before making decisions. A benefit of this practice is that employees see that their leaders are listening to their views. Kraemer believes that the combination of self-reflection and balance elevates leadership to a new level. Some leaders are reluctant to involve subordinates in decision-making because they feel that employees will be dissatisfied if their recommendations are not adopted. Kraemer takes an opposing standpoint on this issue. Leaders are responsible for gathering input, not for gaining consensus. In Kraemer’s experience, team members are satisfied as long as they are given an explanation for why a decision was made. Although gathering input is important, it should not lead to slower decision making. One of the important elements of balance is gathering input from team members, while still making decisions with a sense of urgency.
Balance also applies to one’s life outside of work. Kraemer strongly emphasizes how important it is for leaders to balance their professional and personal lives, and to model this behavior for their organizations. This type of life balance gives people a broader perspective on issues and often helps with decision-making. The author recommends creating a grid which identifies each important part of each person’s life. This grid can be used to track how time is spent and to illustrate where changes may be needed to improve quality of life and leadership. According to Kraemer, successful achievement of life balance can contribute to better discipline, focus, consistency, and credibility.
Leaders with true self-confidence recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and accept themselves as they are. Kraemer has found that one reason companies make poor decisions is because leaders lack self-confidence, and are reluctant to gather input from their teams for support. When a leader truly possesses self-confidence, he or she encourages teams to provide feedback and to challenge others’ opinions, even that of the leader. The confidence a leader feels allows them to ultimately become a better part of a team, since they no longer fear criticism or input from others. Confident leaders also have the courage to speak up when they feel that an organizational decision is not the right one. Further, self-confident leaders have the ability to successfully recognize areas where they have strengths and weaknesses. When individuals have true self-confidence, they understand that they must rely on other team players with complementary abilities who can fill in where the leaders do not excel. Being comfortable with oneself leads to a greater understanding of others. This level of comfort is based on the mastery of self-reflection and balance.
The fourth and final principle of values-based leadership is genuine humility. Leaders who have adopted this principle value every employee and treat everyone with respect, regardless of their title. Kraemer believes that genuine humility keeps leaders in touch with their true selves. When people in positions of power become caught up with their titles, they develop inflated egos. This separates them from their teams and also makes them a target of criticism. A leader with genuine humility relates well with others at all levels. This ultimately motivates the team to help the leader succeed. One of the most important ways to maintain genuine humility is to be surrounded with people who will relate honestly with a leader, and feel able to communicate without hesitation.
While at Baxter, Kraemer made an effort to maintain relationships with people throughout the organization. This further enabled him to gather valuable information from frontline workers when needed. Kraemer believes that supervisors can and should be friends with subordinates, but everyone must understand that the supervisor’s job is to hold people accountable. Genuine humility enables leaders to emphasize that every person adds value, and employees are not valued only based on title or amount of power.