Sunday, September 10, 2006

Value Based Leadership

As a person, what do values mean to me?
As a leader, what values do I believe in?
I often wonder what these meant to me and today things are clearer.

"What do values mean to us? We all talk about honesty, integrity, respect for others etc.
But if you want to know what you value, spend a minute thinking about the things that
you spent your money last year on. You will know what you value most"

"If you want to know the values of an organization forget about their Mission Statements,
vision etc. Look at their budgets. Values are best judged by what you spend your time on
and your money on"

Sometimes you hear someone speak and every word that the person spoke stays in your mind for a long time. Today was one such day. For the leadership class, we had a guest speaker. No, the person who addressed the class was not any business tycoon. It was a lady with a golden heart. Sister Elizabeth Davis was the President and Chief Executive Officer with the Health Care Corporation of St. John’s from 1994 to 2000.As Sister Elizabeth spoke about her experiences and shared her wisdom, a strange feeling built inside me. I am being honest-her thoughts on leadership were very inspiring. During her tenure at the Hospital, Sister Davis helped oversee the hospital a major reorganization in Newfoundland. .During that time with the Hospital a number of services were integrated. She had to take some bold decisions-like closing some hospitals and this was no easy decision for a nun. As she spoke about her experiences, I could feel the pain and a clash in her views.

She made a very interesting point that caught my attention. Toronto is the only city in the world that has the maximum diversity. The city is very diverse (44% non Canadian origin) and has folks from various parts of the world. It is important for us that we just not acknowledge diversity but also appreciate it. True learning comes from there.We must realize that we do not live in a changed world anymore, we instead live in a world that is constantly changing. So, no matter where you work, appreciate diversity and make that your strength. A variety of people get different ideas, fresh perspectives and this will help you solve a problem better. We must hope that moments of incredible change are also moments of incredible opportunity. In the organizations we work in the future, there will be multiple cultures. It takes strong leadership to knit them together and make the best use of them.

. She also talked about the nature of people. She mentioned that humans have a tendency to get discouraged very easily. So, as a leader, it is up to us to make encourage them. I remember reading an article in HBR that said that leaders are often very lonely. So, I asked her if she ever felt discouraged and low at times. Yes, she said. At times, she found it tough to get people to produce their best. She also mentioned that in her leadership role, she had realized that the greatest reward comes from helping people know how good they are.

Towards the end of the speech, she showed us the picture of the Inukshuk. It is an ancient symbol of Inuit culture traditionally used as landmarks and navigation aids. Look at the picture and the granite statue represents a human form with outstretched arms. Each inukshuk tells its own story, perhaps pointing to a good source of fishing or hunting, perhaps showing the path to the next inukshuk. Whatever the message is, one community is sharing the fruits of its learning, sharing its wisdom with another community. For centuries, the Inukshuk is used a guidepost that provided direction to thousands of people. Leadership is something like that. Leaders provide directions and show the path to their people. The Inukshuk is made up on broken stone and like the broken rocks used to create the symbolic inukshuk, sometimes we must break rules , make mistakes, work with our people to provide the right direction. This is one speech that was truly inspiring. The speech received a thunderous applause.In the future, every time I think about my values on leadership, Sister Elizabeth's words would flash into my mind.


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