Values-Based Leadership

On any given day, the global economic crisis can really shake your faith in the leadership of today’s corporations. Here are some of today’s (November 15, 2011) headlines:

Eurozone Economy Barely Advances in Third Quarter

Occupy Protesters Camp Out in Various US Cities

India’s Second largest Airline Reports Record Losses

China Rebuffs Obama’s Criticisms on Trade, Currency

Time Running Out For US Deficit Reduction Deal

Germany’s Merkel Calls for United Europe

Greed, self-interest, excess, callousness are terms used frequently to describe far too many of today’s business leaders. It is often disheartening, and if you base your perception exclusively on media coverage, you’d believe today’s corporate leaders have no values.

My personal experience at Procter & Gamble paints a very different picture. I was exposed to some of the finest leaders in the business world and able to observe them consistently making hard decisions guided by the principles outlined in P&G’s Statement of Values. At P&G, this Statement of Values represented more than words. It was a code of ethics we held each other accountable to. I retired in 2009, and I still carry a tri-fold copy of the Statement in my wallet as a reminder of the performance standards I expect of myself.

I’d like to share a set of beliefs that Bob McDonald (P&G’s Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer) shared in a talk entitled “Values-Based Leadership”. I am hoping that by sharing, I will restore a sense of optimism that great leaders still exist in corporate America.

Bob’s beliefs are rooted in two foundational premises:

  • Creating and living a moral life by a purpose, a code, a set of beliefs is more fulfilling than sliding through life without direction.
  • It is important for each individual, each organization to get in touch with their education, experiences, culture, family heritage, organizational memberships, religion to develop their own set of beliefs.

Bob McDonald’s 10 Leadership Beliefs 

Here are Bob’s beliefs and I can attest he walks the talk, and works every day to inspire the next generations of business leaders.

  • Everyone wants to succeed. The job of a leader is to help people succeed.
  • Success is contagious. A leader’s job is to catch people succeeding; one success will always lead to another.
  • Putting people in the right jobs is one of the most important jobs of the leader. Identify what your people do well, and then put them in jobs that take advantage of their strengths.
  • Character is the most important trait of a leader. Character can be defined as putting the needs of the organization above your own, and taking personal responsibility for the results of the organization.
  • Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong. A leader must truly believe that a life directed by moral guidelines promises deeper and richer satisfaction than a self-serving, self-absorbed life.
  • Ineffective systems and cultures are bigger barriers to achievement than the talents of people.
  • There will be some people in the organization who will not make it on the journey.
  • Organizations must renew themselves. Growth by definition requires change.
  • Recruiting is top priority.
  • The true test of the leader is the performance of the organization when they are absent or after they depart. A leader’s job is to build sufficient organizational capability and individual employee initiative.


Bob delivered that talk back in 2005. For me it is as inspirational today as it was then. Following the talk, Bob challenged me to identify my beliefs. I did the exercise and shared it with Bob. Then he challenged me to go public with it and invite others to hold me accountable for behaving in a manner consistent with my beliefs.  His challenge put me on a personal development journey that changed my career. I remember the first time I shared it as a way of introducing myself to an audience I was delivering a presentation on place branding to. After my talk, the number of people who approached me to discuss my beliefs document surprised me. It also opened my eyes to the power of value-based leadership.

Here is a PDF that describes 12 Things I Believe. You can see I include it as part of my biography and now hand it out all engagements I am invited to speak.

I would like to challenge you to do the exercise as well. Once you’ve done it, share your set of beliefs with some of the CEOs in your community and tell them the story of how the document came about. I am certain you will connect with those CEOs on a more profound level and will build a deeper bond of trust that will help you provide even better service.

While Bob is certainly one of a kind, he is not the only executive with a passion for values-based leadership. Here is a great website with more inspirational perspective from corporate leaders –

After you’ve written down your beliefs and shared them, write a comment describing your experience. If you need more inspiration, watch this video of Bob’s talk – VIDEO


What business executive do you feel is inspirational and why? Have you had any experience with the exercise Bob McDonald encouraged me to complete?

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8 Comments so far

  1. Nichole

    November 16, 2011

    Thank you for posting this. I just met Bob McDonald last month during a visit to OSU. After the meeting, he gave a presentation to students, faculty and staff. I can attest to the comments in your article; my impression of Bob is that he is a very genuine person and has all of the qualities of a great leader. I hope his example can have a positive influence on leadership in America and around the world.

  2. Ken Hill

    November 16, 2011

    I’ve found that leadership can be sorted into two (broad) values styles.

    Those that fundamentally believe that they are ethical based on their values – and that can be a moving set of values

    Those that believe business is business at any cost.

    I’ve often found in my clients businesses that they will have their values, vision & mission predominantly displayed on the wall. Unfortunately they usually end up as background clutter unless espoused continually, especially in management behaviour, ie walk the talk.

  3. Jac van Megen

    November 17, 2011

    Equally important to the how and what people buy, is why they choose a product of your company. Do they relate to your set of values and how you act on them. In my opinion that is the basis of every company or product story. Stories create a carrier wave for ideas. They transfer ideas from one person to another. Without compulsion or resistance, making this a rewarding form of human interaction. Information that is force-fed is one-sided. The recipients make a choice between swallowing it or rejecting it. There’s no time for consideration. But good stories have the power to fascinate. Whether they are delivered by television, books, a visit to the theatre, a good conversation… or by marketing communication. They make us want to recognise ourselves, to put ourselves into someone else’s world. Good stories carrie a mandate to combine value and values. Making them into a whole that earns appreciation. Both for your organisation and for your public. Just as in meetings between individuals, a growing mutual interest tends to be reciprocal.

  4. Freddy A.

    November 23, 2011

    I can tell that value based leadership in my opinion is one of the fundamentals every leader has to consider in their professional life, and I can tell this might be one of the most hard pieces to practice specially when we work with people not used to take this approach in their jobs. Besides greed, self-interest, excess… mentioned in the article, I believe the Ego (my ego and other people´s ego) is one of the biggest enemies.

    This is a personal and professional sweet challenge,put in practice values to lead others, take decission and take a correct risk taking attitude.

    I agree with the 10 Bob McDonald´s Leadership Beliefs. Personally I always try to keep in mind to be humble, to do the right thing, to do what you say and say what yo do.

    Cheers, Freddy

  5. […] Tom Peters book “the brand you 50” is a great read. I often find myself revisiting the book for personal inspiration. The concept of the book is to provide guidance on how to transform from an employee to a brand that people want to engage with. Today, I decided to reread a few sections. I thought sharing some of my thoughts about Tom’s counsel would make a good follow-up to the post about Bob McDonald’s values-based leadership. […]

  6. Ed Burghard

    December 2, 2011

    I thought I’d share these videos of P&G leaders talking about values. The first is in memory of John Smale, a man who had a major impact on my life. A man I admire and feel blessed to have known. For perspective, I had the pleasure of working with and learning from each of these CEOs over the span of my career at P&G.

  7. William Peace

    December 10, 2011

    Thanks for sharing – excellent. I experienced values-based leadership throughout my 32 years with P&G. The passionate, frequent reminder of our purpose, values, and principles brought P&G-ers together to touch lives and improve life. In my book, “Supply Chain Management: The Real WOW Factor, I dedicate a section to values-based leading/managing, coaching/teaching.

  8. […] Tom Peters book “the brand you 50” is a great read. I often find myself revisiting the book for personal inspiration. The concept of the book is to provide guidance on how to transform from an employee to a brand that people want to engage with. Today, I decided to reread the section on values (#8). I thought sharing some of my thoughts about Tom’s counsel would make a good follow-up to the post about Bob McDonald’s values-based leadership. […]

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