Values-Based Leadership

An overview of values-based leadership.

Table of contents

Values-Based Leadership [edit]

Values-based leadership is the idea that leaders should draw on their own and followers' values for direction, inspiration and motivation.

We should first define 'values'. The OED says that values in this context means: "Principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life." 

Values-based leadership philosophy asserts that people are mostly motivated by values; people care deeply about their personal values, and live according to these values.

In other words, values are our most natural motivators.

So it makes sense, and is natural, for leaders to refer to their own values in creating a vision or making decisions.

And equally it makes sense for leaders to connect with their followers' values - because this appeals to what is important to people - which makes people (followers) more likely to act.

Richard Barrett, author of Building a Values-Driven Organization, defines values-based leadership as "...a way of making authentic decisions that builds the trust and commitment of employees and customers."

As a philosophy, values-based leadership assumes that an organization based around shared values is likely to be more flexible and more productive than one working towards an aim that few people care about.


Leaders who apply this philosophy are likely to experience certain inner benefits.

  • First, leaders will make better choices - that are comfortable for Leaders to act on.
  • Second, leaders are likely to build better, more trusting, less stressful relationships with followers.
  • Third, leaders are more likely to feel aligned with their 'authentic self'.

Note the third point especially. It reveals the overlap between values-based leadership and authentic leadership. A person's values are at the core of their sense of identity; their sense of who they are. So by definition, authentic leaders will always act from their highest values.