Fred Kiel addresses the importance of leaders and how they transmit their values and beliefs throughout their leadership teams in his book Return on Character. He explains that it is important for leaders to hold strong moral values and principles, but he also explains the importance of leaders sharing those values and building them into the ethos of a company in a way that is clear and concise, and easy to connect with for everyone in the company.
Kiel explains the importance of leaders being able to clearly communicate their values and expectations in the following quote, “While most people are well intentioned, they also need to have clarity about expectations and boundaries. If a leader claims that “integrity is the cornerstone of our culture” but fails to spell out exactly what that means in practice, then the claim has little weight or purpose.” What this shows that we must take lofty ideas and connect them back to the basic and every day actions of those within our teams. Connecting the core values back to the basic process of every employee becomes vital so that the culture and the key values that the leader wants to develop within an organization can manifest in everything that a team does. Having a leader who can demonstrate how those core values relate fit in with the business can help an organization in a trickle down manner. The CEO can build those values into the decisions and actions of his leadership team, who can distill those values in practical manners to management levels throughout the company, and those team managers can build those values into the actions of those who they guide and work with.
While explaining this process Kiel admits that rules and core values do not fit nicely into a black and white dichotomy, but that there are wide gray areas. He argues that developing character throughout the company will help leaders make decisions that better align with the core values of the company when situations fall within these gray areas. Having leadership and management teams that display character habits that are in line with the companies core values can help everyone from the CEO to the newest employee understand what is expected and how to act in a way that bolsters the company’s core values as opposed to feigning to adhere to company values.