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Values-based Leadership

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During the last decade many companies have adopted the language of organizational values and values have become an important element in their leadership and self-reference. However, there is little agreement among theoreticians and leaders as to the meaning and use of values in organizations.

This chapter investigates the concept of values in the leadership of organizations: what is the contribution of organizational values today for theories of the firm and for a company of the new millennium? We do so by exploring the concept of values from both a theoretical perspective and an empirical perspective.

The concepts values and leadership are examined in order to present the complex phenomenon of values-based leadership. These reflections pave the way for a discussion of three leadership discourses that are steeped in the language of values: business ethics, corporate social responsibility and corporate branding.

Based on the results of empirical investigations the most frequently referred to values in larger Danish organizations are presented and a multifaceted perspective is developed on the roles of four forces that drive values-based leadership in practice: Religion, Democracy, Control and Illusion.

Values-based leadership has the potential for becoming a key element in corporate strategy, organizational self-reference and action at all levels of the organization. But for this maturation process to reach fruition, there is a need for research to be established based on partnerships between academic institutions and business enterprises. In particular, seven critical issues are identified that require attention if a viable theory and practice of values-based leadership is to evolve.

Keywords: corporate branding; identity; leadership; responsibility; values; values-based leadership

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2007

More about this publication?
  • Ethics in the Economy
    The first part contains challenging papers on the myth of rationality, corporate social responsibility, critical pragmatism, moral disengagement mechanisms, and ethical decision-making. The papers listed under 'Innovative Practices and Policy Reforms' address issues of authenticity in business, sustainable investments, ethical consumerism, and happiness in economics. The Opinions section focuses on the ecological sustainability of business. The Debate section concentrates on the ethics management paradox, which states that opportunistic ethical initiatives fail. Only genuine ethics works in business.
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