Values in the workplace

Dave Snowden has this appealing habit of making provocative points in his blog – I’m sure he appreciates that! Anyway, in his latest he writes (emphasis original) “Good leadership does not attempt to control values, it lives them.

I’ll willingly pick up a role I have already tried out, that of Dave’s extender (though not too much like a mediaeval rack, I hope). There is an ambiguity between one’s own values and the values of others which needs to be drawn out. The only values one can live out are one’s own, but the values Dave is noting the control of are the values of others.

What could better be said, in my opinion, is that good leadership develops the values of others, and develops (probably only) one of their identities. That process of development of values should be the natural follow-on to more prosaic personal or professional development, which at the prosaic end deals with skills and competence.

Developing values involves reflection. It can be the classic “can I look at myself in the mirror” scenario – that is, am I comfortable with my self-image as a person who does that kind of thing I am reflecting on. Ideally it involves rooting out hypocrisy – if I espouse one value in one context, I shouldn’t be doing something different in another context. To me, that’s a major moral imperative.

If hypocrisy is tolerated, the danger is that the substitute process can take place of moulding one’s ethical behaviour in a certain situation just to match the prevailing values practiced in that situation, or indeed to match the values of the people responsible for one’s promotion – which is what Dave is rightly complaining about.

To relate this to work (and JISC CETIS) I could point out that values include educational values, which are vital to learners’ engagement in educational processes.

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