How to Embrace Value-Based Leadership Globally

Value-based leadership emphasizes morality, values, ethics, principles, and integrity to communicate and realize organizational goals effectively.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” —Winston Churchill.

Although the righteous man falls ten times, he rises again repeatedly, whereas the wicked man never falls twice. God extends his hand several times to the righteous man who has values and morals in his life to rise again. However, God never extends another opportunity to the wicked man because he doesn’t deserve it.

With the fall of several business empires globally, people began doubting the credibility of business leaders. People go to the extent of blaming the business schools that create leaders. Where does the problem lie? Is it the individuals or institutions to be made accountable for the failure of business empires? If the institutions are to be pinned with responsibility, then the engineering institutions that produce incompetent engineers and the medical institutions that produce unethical doctors are to be blamed. It is not the institutions to be blamed but the individuals for the current business mess. The dearth of leadership values and morals among business leaders is responsible for the current business scandals. In this context, we shall look at value-based leadership, which is the need of the hour in this 21st century.

What is Value-Based Leadership?

Value-based leadership highlights what is right and wrong, not who is right and wrong. It emphasizes the means, not the ends. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi led India’s freedom struggle through non-violence. He went by the road less traveled by emphasizing means, not end.  Martin Luther King fought for the equality of blacks with whites. He led the civil rights movement through non-violence. He is still revered globally. Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid in South Africa and is a living legend. Leaders who divide countries based on religion, language, ethnicity, and geography are never appreciated in history. However, the people who fought for equality and human dignity are always revered and respected globally.

‘Truth alone triumphs at the end’ is the hallmark of value-based leadership. It is the values that count. It is the journey that matters, not the destination. How long one lives is not meaningful, but how well one lives with values is more important. It is not the material but the principles, values, and morals that count for these leaders.

People flout norms and rules and deviate from basic ethics and morals for various reasons, such as to ensure their survival, their desire to excel at any cost, and the pressure to perform out of the way. It is a complicated situation for several leaders who occupy higher positions. If we empathize, we may, at times, justify their deviation from fundamental values. However, wrong is always wrong.

Charisma is the key to value-based leadership. It emphasizes integrity and ethics. It emphasizes ideas, ideals, values, and morality. It is about being transparent and fair in dealings while leading. It is all about adding value to the organizational goals and objectives and the people contributing to the goals. It is about standing by values through thick and thin and sharing them with the people in and around with enthusiasm. Finally, value-based leadership is about adding value to the institutions rather than individuals who champion value-based leadership.

Although leadership needs values and morals, value-based leadership emphasizes morality, values, ethics, principles, and integrity to get across the message to people and realize organizational goals successfully. It emphasizes more on means rather than mere ends. It always emphasizes integrity, ethics, honesty, fairness, and transparency. All this makes the difference between normal leadership and value-based leadership.

Value-based leadership calls for corporate social responsibility. It looks for the all-round development of the organization and society as a whole. It pays taxes promptly and looks for longevity but no shortcuts. The path to value-based leadership is full of thorns, but treading the path makes the journey exciting and interesting.

All humans have a conscience that reminds us of right and wrong. Ethics and morals involve cultural issues. What is right for one society may be wrong for another. Therefore, value-based leadership is contextual and artistic, but at its core, it is based on convictions and everlasting values and morals.

Characteristics of Value-Based Leaders

Value-based leaders avoid litigation and ill will. They don’t hesitate to lose money and material to uphold their credibility and goodwill. Money can be earned, but not the lost reputation. They look for longevity but not short-term temptations. They need to take into account short-term setbacks. They keep long-term vision and values in view and take a strategic call.

These leaders follow the law of the land and the rules of the game meticulously. Their words and deeds are totally synchronized. They are aware that they are constantly under the scanner. They firmly stick to their commitment and lead by trust and confidence. Trust is the foundation of value-based leadership.

Value-based leaders leave a great legacy behind where there will not be any leadership vacuum as they line up the leadership pipeline. They start the fire that fuels the virtuous cycle of success. They do the right things rather than doing things right.

These leaders infuse their people and organizations with their ideological values and morals, which last longer than themselves. Their preaching, practices, policies, and procedures are much stronger, more pervasive, and more endurable, with long-term effects.

They sacrifice their privileges for the betterment of their people. They create a strong and compelling vision statement replete with values and morals and are ready to face challenges head-on. They are undeterred about the pinpricks on the way. They set a personal example and focus on the collective interests of all individuals. For them, people’s interests are superior to their interests.

They are constantly under the scanner of their people. They are watched closely and keenly. People follow these leaders when they are convinced about their credentials and values. These segments of leaders have to undergo several series of severe tests to prove themselves in the eyes of their people. People tolerate no degree of hypocrisy.

They don’t like to catch people making mistakes and correct them. They would instead catch people succeeding and turn that into greater success. As we all know, success is contagious.

They walk the talk, set an example, die for values, and rarely bother for survival. Their core is based purely on principles, values, and ethics. Humility is their hallmark.

Succinctly, the common qualities that connect all value-based leaders are being passionate about values, principles, ideas, and ideals, leading by example, sticking to commitment, and looking at similarities but not differences.

We find people being fired after being hired. The general perception is that the lack of hard skills is ascribed to the firing of an employee. The hidden truth is not that but the contradiction between the employer’s value system and the employees’ ethical values.

Few people make several mistakes for their survival. But the survival is only temporary with long-term implications and complications. It is always the means that count but not the end. Value-based leadership justifies means rather than ends.

Those who compromise their values find it difficult to convince their conscience and suffer in the end. At times, the time may support the wrong man, but the result is disastrous for the man. Therefore, it is essential to emphasize values.

What counts at the end of the life are your values and morals. Several leaders are revered globally even after their death. It is basically because of their values, convictions, and principles that move generation after generation.

Emphasize Value-Based Leadership 

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” —Albert Einstein.

Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Mother Theresa are revered and remembered even after their deaths because of their values, morals, and contributions towards the right and just causes. Abraham Lincoln also represented value-based leadership. He never compromised his values and morals despite several hardships and failures.  He fought against slavery and for the unity of North and South America, and ultimately he was assassinated. Corporate leaders like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates represent value-based leadership where they make money ethically and share their wealth for the benefit of humankind through their foundation.

Value-based leadership is the key to survival and success in the 21st century. Leading a purposeful and meaningful life makes life interesting and exciting. Money and material things come and go. What stands at the end of your life are the values and morals and the legacy you leave to your future generations. Leave a mark behind. Become a legend. Become a value-based leader. You may not be a good inheritor, but you can be a good ancestor.

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.
Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D., is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with 43 years of experience and the author of 52 books, including the award-winning "See the Light in You" ( He has published more than 300 papers and articles in international publications, including Leader to Leader, Thunderbird International Business Review, Strategic HR Review, Development and Learning in Organizations, Industrial and Commercial Training, On the Horizon, and Entrepreneur magazine. He is a soldier, entrepreneur, editor, educator, author, enlightener, and philosopher. He is a C-suite advisor and global keynote speaker. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision, given his multifaceted professional experience that includes military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030 ( He advocates gender equality globally (#HeForShe). He invests his time in authoring books and blogging on executive education, learning, and leadership. Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs, including He is a prolific author and a dynamic, energetic, and inspirational leadership speaker. He can be reached at