Hernandez and Summers offer tips to help leaders articulate values

May 28, 2024

Values are at the heart of leadership, decision making, and organizational culture, but what constitutes a value? How do leaders effectively put them into practice?

In an article for MIT Sloan Management Review, leadership experts Morela Hernandez and Catherine Summers offer practical steps leaders can take to explore, evaluate, and refine their values.

“We’ve found through our research that values are significant, persistent drivers in organizational culture and behavior,” said Summers. “People don’t spend much time thinking about what they stand for until they face a crisis. But values are most useful when an individual intentionally sets and examines their beliefs before those moments.”

Not all values are equal, the authors explain. The most useful values are the ones driven by self-perception and can be changed immediately through mindset. For example, honesty is immediately achievable and within a person’s control.

Conversely, popularity is a value that is externally imposed. “Deprioritizing these values [such as popularity] will help your internal grounding,” the authors write. You’ll have a more stable platform from which to make decisions.”

The authors encourage leaders to evaluate their progress and refine values through regular reevaluation. They suggest leaders measure how values influence their decision-making by keeping track of how they express values through personal and professional choices.

“It’s an active process that demands introspection, articulation, and ongoing commitment,” they write.