I asked a question awhile back regarding the situation of a leader in the position to make a decision that goes against his or her personal values but is in some way a positive decision for the company. This was based on an actual business school discussion in which I was a participant some time ago and I was interested in the overall opinions of our readers.
I urge you to check out the answers. The dilemma seems to be three fold:
1. The leader has a responsibility to be true to his or her personal values. This dilemma seems to play itself out in the theory that, a leader who acts against his or her own deeply held beliefs will eventually pay the price through the lack of authenticity required by such an action.
2. The leader has a responsibility to the company. Although some people quibbled a bit about “what do you mean by values,” and “what do you mean by good,” the point was understood that somehow this dilemma could be seen as advantageous to the desires of the company regardless of the desires of the leader. In this case, most people stated very directly that the leader would have to consider whether this was truly in violation with his or her values and, if so, it was time to look for another leadership position somewhere else.
3. The leader has a holistic responsibility to both. In this perspective, the leader was encouraged to consider the hierarchy of values. In other words, “pick your battles.” If the value being discussed is of low priority or perhaps does not impact the higher order values of the leader, then perhaps the decision needs to be made. If the consequence of the decision creates a greater good, and the leader has a chance to advocate for his or her values in another setting on another day, it may be acceptable as well. From this perspective, it is something of a “relative” question.
I don’t propose to actually have a definitive answer, but the dialogue is worthwhile because it is reflective of what leaders have to deal with on a frequent basis. If there IS one thing that leaders can do in a situation like this it is to be prepared for…a situation like this. Strong leaders spend a lot of time in reflection on their actions and effectiveness. Considering values questions ahead of time allow us to consider the consequences of our POTENTIAL behavior before we are called on to take such action. Often, thorny topics come up at a moment’s notice and it is helpful to consider where you stand. What is important to you and what is non-negotiable? And what will you do when faced with a similar situation?