Researcher and Writer in Washington, DC

Research Note: June, 2009 March/April Public Administration Review Article on Organizational Leadership

In the course of profiling James Loy (a former Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, and Department of Homeland Security administrator), this article provides a brief overview of the ideas behind “vales based leadership,” and the scholarly literature thereon.

Under values-based leadership, the first role of the head of an organization is to articulate the organization’s core values, and to implement policies and practices that encourage employees to internalize these values.  The core values are enumerated, their connection to the total purpose of the organization is clarified, and operations are altered to expres the values and encourage an esprit d’corps.

The objective is to create organizational cohesion and high performance.  Rather than have employees confused about how to handle a situation, or scrambling for some policy directive to explain what do to, values-based leadership aims to have employees accept the organizations values as both a guide and an inspiration to action.

Beyond the obvious challenges of doing all this, there also is the matter of getting a leader and those other at the top of the organization to exemplify the values (and not be perceived as self-serving hypocrites); and the task of keeping people inspired over the long term.

These ideas sound similiar to those propounded by Chester Barnard in The Functions of the Executive (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938).  Edward C. Banfield’s Government Project (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1951) contains a nice discussion of Barnard’s idea about the role of the executive in creating  order in an organization.

Source: Heather Getha-Taylor, “Managing the ‘New Normalcy’ with Values-Based Leadership: Lessons from Admiral James Loy,” Public Administration Review, March/April 2009, vol. 69, issue 2, pp. 200-206.

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