Book Review: 'From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership' by Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr.
From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr. Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint (2011)
How and why leadership is about the growth and positive change that almost anyone can bring about while working with others
All organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of their operations. Few organizations have sufficient leadership and therein lies a huge problem and an even greater opportunity. Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr. correctly asserts that “there’s no greater benefit of becoming a values-based leader than setting the standard for the rest of the organization so that it, too, focuses on what matters most.” Of course, Kraemer is referring to C-level executives but he would be among the first to insist that the power of values-based leadership must never be limited to them. He identifies and then rigorously examines what he characterizes as “the four principles of values-based leadership.” They are:
o Self-reflection o Balance o True self-confidence o Genuine humility
None is a head-snapping revelation, nor does Kraemer make any such claim. There could just as easily be seven or ten and each could be described with different terms. Whatever the number of attributes, however they are identified, the fact remains that the greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) are exemplars of the same core values. Kraemer devotes a separate chapter to each principle in Part I, then shifts his attention to what he calls “the essential elements of a vales-based organization” in Part II (one chapter per each element) before explain in Part III how a great leader summons the moral courage and social responsibility to lead her or his organizations (whatever its nature) “from success to significance.” For example, that is precisely what Elizabeth I did after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
After a brisk but thorough coverage of the “what” of values-based, values-driven leadership in Part I, Kraemer devotes the rest of the book to explaining its “how” and “why.” He comes across (to me, at least) as a pragmatic idealist, one who has an insatiable curiosity to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why so that he can then share what he has learned with as many others (especially aspiring leaders) as he can.
Kraemer introduces a process by which almost anyone, over time, can become an effective leader whose affirmations and (more importantly) whose behavior are guided and informed by the four principles. Those highly-developed leadership competencies can be applied to establishing and then nourishing the essential elements of a values-based organization, one that can indeed then complete a transition “from success to significance.” Such a leader demonstrates the values of what Robert Greenleaf once characterized as “the servant leader” in an essay published in 1970.
In a second essay, “The Institution as Servant,” Greenleaf observes: “This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built. Whereas, until recently, caring was largely person to person, now most of it is mediated through institutions – often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not always competent; sometimes corrupt. If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them.”
I highly recommend this book to C-level executives and others who have supervisory responsibilities as well as to direct reports who aspire to become leaders. I also presume to suggest checking out the wealth of information now available at the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. Finally, here are some other sources that may also be of interest and value: Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller’s The Secret, Miller’s The Secret of Teams, Michael Ray’s The Highest Goal, James O’Toole’s The Executive’s Compass, and David Whyte’s The Heart Aroused.
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.