Value-based Leadership

To be an effective manager/leader is undeniably complex. One must simultaneously perform well in multiple dimensions and reconcile contradictory issues: the urgent with the important, quantity with quality, operational with strategic decisions, the short-run with the long-run, and so on. However, beyond these important dilemmas lies one incontrovertible fact: today, effective leadership depends not just on competent trade-offs and technical skills, but also — and increasingly so — on sound personal and business values.


Can “sound personal and business values” be defined simply, made operational, and aspire to be universally accepted?

Along with Prof. Csikszentmihalyi, who did so much to develop and operationalize these concepts, we think that they can be and that “value-based” leadership is in ascendance around the globe. “Sound personal and business values” is defined by a set of simple precepts:

  1. Everyone is a leader in his or her own way. Within and around us there are countless challenges and opportunities each and every day. As long as we are guided by the simple ethical precept, “do no harm for selfish reasons”, we can learn from our successes and mistakes so that we gradually become better persons and, at the same time, more effective “value-guided” managers/leaders.
  2. In managing a team or leading an organization, we have to enjoy doing our best while, at the same time, [be] contributing to something beyond ourselves. For example, by making sure that our goods and services, our business model, are compatible with a sustainable environment. In more and more societies, such issues are moving from the periphery to the center of their concerns; leaders of organizations are expected to be in the forefront.
  3. While every manager and leader aims to make the team and the organization more effective, it is also his or her responsibility to bring out the best in co-workers and employees, realizing that his/her decisions affect their personal and business lives. For example, increasingly knowledge-workers especially chose workplaces that offer more than just a paycheck. To use another example, places that help employees experience Flow tend to be more successful on many performance dimensions than comparable others.

Decision-making is the highest task of management/leadership. One becomes a leader when one makes decisions with confidence and accepts responsibility for their consequences. Accordingly, FLIGBY is about 153 simple and complex decisions you will have to make. During the process you’ll find out how your decisions shape your own fate in smaller and bigger ways, and how your decisions impact the lives and fates of others. You’ll also be shaping how the story itself unfolds. Making use of this leadership power and experiencing its consequences without incurring real risks is one of life’s most satisfying experiences. In playing FLIGBY you will be watching — as well as starring in — a fascinating real-life business drama unfold.

Leadership today has moved beyond running a large organization. Increasingly, leadership means making decisions and taking initiatives outside formal organizations.

In today’s increasingly complex network society –where entrepreneurs, subcontractors, consultants, and freelancers are slowly outnumbering in-house employees of knowledge-based organizations – leadership requires not only the running of a bureaucracy but the provision of expertise, credibility, and trust – in other words, values – and the professional-human relationships that are formed during one’s career.

Leadership in this newer world means confident, value-based decision-making and acceptance of its consequences. FLIGBY provides life-long lessons of this value-based leadership to those who are already running a large organization, managing a team, are starting a business, or are thinking about career choices or changes.

(The author of this entry is Prof. Paul Marer, member of the Leadership & Flow Research Program Advisory Board)