Leveraging Value-Driven Leadership in Business, At Home and in your Community

We tend to celebrate a certain type of leadership style: inspirational, charismatic, out in front and ready to disrupt. But you could argue that the first follower is just as important as the person leading. After all, the first follower is the one who shows others how to follow. And what about the people who organize logistics, execute the leader’s vision and rally the troops? Without them, there’s nothing. All of these people are, in fact, leaders with their own leadership styles. So how do you determine your leadership style?

Alison Fragale, PhD, associate professor of organizational behavior and Mary Farley Ames Lee Distinguished Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School, teaches how to harness your leadership behaviors and communication styles to lead effectively. She encourages leaders to answer this question:


“What are the things that you do better than anyone else and are critical to the success of the organization?”

Those strengths are a critical part of your leadership style.

But leadership style is not just a matter of behavior, personality or strengths, and Fragale resists categorizing leaders based on these characteristics. Instead, she delves deeper: “You can look at values as a way to distinguish leaders, and those values are going to come through in the way that they lead,” she says.

Fragale encourages leaders to choose their top values from lists, such as the one found in Brené Brown’s book Dare to Lead (PDF, 191 KB), and pick two they appreciate most, a challenging exercise even for the most self-aware. When they sift out their top two values, they recognize many of their automatic behaviors. For example, someone who values security looks back and notices risks they chose not to take despite the possible reward. Someone who values time might realize the root of their habitual impatience with colleagues and family members.

Values are not inherently good or bad, and having a particular value has no bearing on whether someone is an effective leader. A leader who values thrift above all else will behave very differently from a leader who places the highest value on having the best of the best. The first person might be afraid to purchase a much-needed piece of equipment, while the second person might spend too freely on frivolous upgrades. But the first person also might find cost-effective solutions that save the company money, and the second person could invest in hiring the best personnel to get the best results.

Here are nine values you could see in different types of leaders. Each value has strengths and weaknesses, so we’ve offered suggestions for optimizing your value-driven leadership in your business, home or community.

Integrity

A leader who values integrity cares about doing the right thing and upholding their personal ideals or those of the company. Integrity-driven leaders tend to be responsible, precise and detail-oriented, which is great news for their followers. But sometimes, in pursuit of integrity and idealism, they can be perfectionistic, legalistic, overly critical or unforgiving.

Work

Let your high expectations lead you and your team to excellent results. Impress clients with your attention to detail, but listen to their needs, too. Make sure to spend time with your team members asking for feedback. This dialogue allows people to understand your standards for excellence.

Home

You are well-equipped to make the world a better place, starting at home. Model honesty, fairness and sincerity with your family. Remember, though, to pick your battles, particularly with young children who have not yet developed a strong sense of right and wrong. Think twice about whether an action or choice really affects you or anyone else enough to make an issue over it.

Community

Harness your idealism to envision and create change on issues that are important to you. Be patient when calling for change; where you see potential for growth, others might only see hardship and obstacles. Connect with people who have strong emotional intelligence to ensure your message reaches more people.

Service

Service-driven leaders care about helping others. Typically, they are very in tune with their emotions and are good at encouraging others to respond emotionally. Sometimes the need to be needed overwhelms good intentions and turns into intrusive, smothering or manipulative behavior. 

Work

You thrive when helping others, whether in a profession like healthcare or education, service-oriented nonprofits or creative roles. Make sure to balance your passion for helping with logical arguments and evidence of tangible results. It’s not enough for you to feel needed; you need to check in with what actually needs to be done and meet those needs.

Home

You always want to contribute to the well-being of others in your home. Your family feels safe and cared for with you. It’s important to take care of yourself first, though, rather than expect the gratitude of those in your home to meet your emotional needs. You can’t always be able to be there for your family, so it’s important to let others learn how to take care of themselves.

Community

You get to work right away, whether organizing a voter registration drive or baking cookies for the block party. Misdirected assistance could have unintended consequences, so make sure you are asking (and listening) to what a group or person really needs before jumping in to help.

Achievement

Leaders who value achievement want to meet goals, deadlines and targets because they care about how they are perceived by others. Your energy and ambition can be great motivators for a team. Be aware of your drive for advancement, which could cause you to plow over other people or ignore your own needs. You could become overly image-conscious and refuse to acknowledge your own mistakes or weaknesses.

Work

You have natural star power and people want to be like you. Let your motivation spread to others. At the same time, be honest about your needs and ask for assistance when you need it. Don’t be afraid that you might look weak or incapable. Everyone needs help sometimes and giving people the opportunity to contribute to your goal increases their own sense of enthusiasm for a project. You might be prone to workaholism, so take breaks to avoid exhausting yourself.

Home

Made an extra house payment this year? Awesome! Successful potty training? Fantastic! Your commitment to reaching goals can mean lots of cause for celebration at home. Take time to notice little victories and acknowledge setbacks, too. Whatever your current quest, pause to connect with your loved ones and enjoy the present.

Community

Don’t think about community service as a box to be checked off on the way to advancing your career. Work with others on something that has nothing to do with your individual  goals. You might find a great deal of fulfillment directing your energy toward helping someone else achieve something important.

Creativity

Leaders who value creativity excel at finding novel solutions for long-standing problems as well as creating for the sake of creating. You’re good at thinking outside the box and expressing those ideas to others. You might have a tendency or preference to work alone, but your ideas and creations have the potential to reach many. Be aware you can be self-absorbed and temperamental.

Work

You are great at creating beautiful, innovative things or ideas. You are also good at casting vision and initiating new projects. Slow down and give others time to catch up with you. Partner with people who are grounded in details and reality who can help you execute your creative dreams.

Home

You have high emotional intelligence, so help your partner and children how to understand themselves better. Make sure to maintain healthy discipline for yourself and your family rather than letting mood drive your life. Routines and processes might be hard to set up at first, but when implemented effectively, they will give you space for flexibility and creativity.

Community

Getting involved with larger groups of people can keep you from getting lost in navel-gazing. Commit yourself and your creative talents to productive, meaningful work that will contribute to your good and that of others, no matter how small the contribution might be.

Competence

Leaders who value competence want to be efficient, reliable and responsible. They differ from achievement-driven leaders because they care most about the process rather than the final result. Such leaders may have little patience for others’ mistakes or anything that may stand in the way of success.

Work

You excel at finding and trimming down unnecessary expenses, effort and time. Look for ways to improve processes steadily rather than through big leaps. Try to be open to experimentation as well, even if it doesn’t seem like the fastest way from point A to point B.

Home

You can easily create systems and processes to run your home like a well-oiled machine. Leave some room for unexpected detours (they will definitely happen!) and practice unwinding and relaxing at home.

Community

Most nonprofits need to make the most out of modest resources. Use your organizing skills to help the community. While you may be interested in many different causes and topics, focus on choosing projects that improve your self-esteem, confidence or life situation.

Collaboration

This is a somewhat common leadership style and for a good reason. The leader who values collaboration works to instill loyalty and inclusion among their team members, which can improve morale, retention and productivity. An overemphasis on loyalty, however, can lead to defensive or authoritarian behavior that tolerates no dissent.

Work

Use your values to create a friendly team atmosphere and build strong networks between colleagues, clients and vendors. Don’t be afraid to point out negative consequences for fear of offending or alienating people. Honesty and constructive criticism are important for building productivity within a team.

Home

You can show your family how to work together and support each other no matter the circumstances. Resist the urge to demand immediate, unswerving obedience and instead offer reasonable choices and positive reinforcement.

Community

You have a knack for bringing people together for a common cause. Be sure to balance inclusion with impact; giving everyone a voice doesn’t do much if the conversation stalls. It’s okay to listen to everyone’s needs while appointing a qualified few to make the final decision.

Freedom

Freedom-valuing leaders are fun to be around. You care about feeling good and having enjoyable experiences, which means you can create a positive environment for others. You might be prone to restlessness and “shiny-object syndrome” at times. Be careful not to exhaust yourself pursuing every new thing.

Work

Your natural enthusiasm inspired and energizes those around you. You like to learn and try new things, so use that ability to experiment productively with new tools and ideas. Listen to what people say (and not just your own impulses) and get comfortable with short periods of quiet or anticipation.

Home

You’re the “fun” parent or partner! Use your enthusiasm to share new experiences with your family. Just remember to make space for rest and to choose quality over quantity when possible. There’s always tomorrow to try something else.

Influence

This could be the driving value held by many we deem “traditional” leaders. You care about being seen, heard and heeded, but that’s because you really want to make an impression wherever you are. Sometimes the quest for power and influence leads to dictatorial or confrontational behavior.

Work

You are strong-willed and determined, which means you can get things done quickly. Think things through carefully so you can act resolutely. Show your excitement for a particular task or project and try to partner with people who can help you tend to emotional needs on your team and with your clients.

Home

Your decisiveness creates stability at home, even during chaotic times. Young children especially need boundaries and certainty to feel safe. (Of course, they push those boundaries!) Practice yielding on small issues so your authority on big issues actually matters. Be willing to revisit decisions if new evidence or circumstances emerge.

Community

People look to leaders who can make decisions that need to be made. Stay connected with others in your community and identify who your best allies are so that you have genuine support (rather than fear) in creating change.

Stability

This leadership value may feel underrated. These leaders care about minimizing risk, avoiding conflict and defusing tension. In the quest to avoid conflict, however, they can sometimes be fatalistic and unresponsive.

Work

You see multiple perspectives, which makes you a skilled mediator and can help you find solutions that meet the most needs. Your sense of balance enables you to create a safe, well-rounded work environment where others can be productive. Speak up for your own needs and perspective while tending to those of others.

Home

Conflict is inevitable when people live in close proximity, so mediate conflict productively and not just for the sake of “making peace.” Be aware of when you need to risk peace temporarily to gain long-term good, such as limiting a child’s sweets consumption to avoid a stomachache later or disagreeing with a partner who wants to make a purchase you can’t afford.

Community

You are naturally a healing, calming influence on people who have been hurt. Use your peacemaking skills to build bridges between individuals and groups so they can work together for the common good.

These values that drive leadership are just a sample of the many values that might motivate people to act certain way. Fragale believes our values are relatively enduring but that “we can also work toward changing our behavior to live a certain value.”

We hope this list gives a glimpse of why leadership is important in business and beyond, no matter what values drive your choices and actions.

Citation for this content: MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler’s online MBA program