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NEW DELHI :

Values-based leadership is more than just a defensive playbook for how to respond when a dilemma, problem or crisis arises," writes Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr, professor of management and strategy at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, US, in his book Becoming The Best: Build A World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership.

Prof. Kraemer delineates a five-pronged approach in the book: how to be the best self you can be, how to build the best team, become the best partner to your suppliers and customers, the best investment for stock owners—this includes investing in the organization’s talent—and being the best citizen by focusing not just on business performance but also social responsibility.

In an email interview, he explains his four principles of values-based leadership and explains how start-ups can continue to have great teams even as they scale. Edited excerpts:

What are your four principles of values-based leadership?

Leadership has nothing to do with titles and organization charts—it is a result of the ability to influence others, and influencing others is achieved by relating to everyone in the organization.

The first step is to become your “best self" by applying what I call the four principles of values-based leadership:

u Self-reflection: Take the time to become truly self-aware and answer some key questions: What are my values? What do I stand for? What is my purpose? What kind of a leader do I want to be? What example do I want to set?

One cannot answer these questions while multitasking. Self-reflection requires some quiet time to think, enabling oneself to differentiate between activity and productivity.

u Balance: The ability to understand all sides of issues, to understand before you are understood.

u True self-confidence: The ability to know what you know and admit what you don’t know. With true self-confidence, you are willing to admit when you are wrong. You surround yourself with people stronger than yourself.

u Genuine humility: Realizing that your success may be due partially to hard work and skill sets, but that luck, timing, the team and maybe a spiritual element are also involved.

Never forget where you came from and realize that every single person matters. As a result of these four principles, you begin to become your “best self". At this stage, you focus on the key ingredients that must be added to the “best self" to become a values-based organization.

What are these ingredients?

u Best team: Focus on attracting, hiring, developing and retaining a phenomenal team. This requires a focus on feedback and effective communication that is open, honest and continuous.

u Best partner: Build strong, trustworthy relationships with both customers and suppliers. The key is to understand what these constituents need to be successful so you can create “win-win" relationships that are sustainable rather than transactional.

u Best investment: Realize that you need to execute, implement and “make it happen". All team members must be held accountable to achieve the agreed upon results for the owners of the enterprise.

At this point, we have our own personal act together (best self), as well as our organizational act (best team, best partner and best investment). However, we are not complete. If we are to become a values-based organization, we must also become socially responsible, what I call becoming a “best citizen".

And what makes someone the “best citizen"?

The realization that individuals and the overall organization have the responsibility to “make a positive difference" in the world. This is not only the “right thing to do", it is the expectation of both the “best team" you have created, and the suppliers and customers that have become your “best partners".

Start-ups sometimes lose their “best team" quality as they grow bigger. Could you share some tips to prevent this?

u Know and live your values, providing a strong positive example for the entire team, whether it is one team member, 50 or several thousand.

u Make talent management and leadership development the central focus of the organization. Every person on the team needs to clearly understand the expectations and consequences.

u Take the time for clear, transparent communication, so that every team member understands what we are trying to achieve and how their roles fit into the mission.

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