Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Leadership and values, the most important thing?

Awhile back I started a series of posts under the title Leadership: destination, people, journey, and arriving. So far I have written about the destination (defining, getting and communicating vision), the next stage is the journey.

In any journey you first have a destination, otherwise you are going nowhere. Next is the process of the journey, "How you want to get there?". This is where values fit into the picture. In his book, "Purpose Driven Youth Ministry", Doug Fields says, "values reveal what is important to your ministry (or organisation)". Values essentially give you the benchmark to test the means and methods you are using to get to your destination.
Most people would agree that values are important but I believe they are the missing organisational link in the trinity of mission, vision and values. If not altogether missing then at the least the poor second cousin of mission and vision. Why do I say this? Every organisation has values, whether they are written down or not. However generally these values are meaningless because:
They aren't Real - are they actually values or just objectives or non-value statements?
They are rarely Repeated - are your values explained, communicated, discussed or taught?
They are never Reviewed - is the organisation measuring what it does against how it says it wants to do things?

Real values
In the first instance are the values that the organisation holds something tangible that you can describe and see in the real world - e.g. friendship or teamwork. Very often organisations produce complicated, long winded statements or just use vision or mission orientated words and phrases as value statements.
Some good examples of values (that are clear and understandable) are City ChurchRevelation Church and Boeing

Repeated values
Like vision, values should be kept in front of the organisation and not just locked in a document or website.
If values tell us what is important to us and speak of our ethos then we should be talking, communicating, educating, sharing these values widely and regularly. At this point the phrase "values are caught not taught" would usually be stated and it certainly has a ring of truth to it and values can be seen and therefore caught. But if catching is the only method for getting values then is it like catching a virus? When you come into the presence of the value holder and you pick up what you see and percieve then you become a similar value holder. But if values are only caught then like a virus mutation may occur. We need to teach and communicate clearly what our values are, what they mean and what they look like. This should happen in many different ways acting as a plumbline to test what we are 'catching' from one another.

Reviewed values
So we have some real values, we are repeating these values regularly. How will we know if we are really doing what we say is important?
We could ask some questions which would objectively see if we are doing what we say is important. Again in Doug Field's book he shares how they did this in his youthwork, so for their value of acceptance they had the following questions they would ask of themselves to review how they were doing in this area.
If you have a set of values how do you know if anyone, even yourself, is following these values? Do you do some form of objective review or do you just say to people "these values are core to who we are" so you must be following them.

So I guess we need to ask yourself how important are our values? How are values held in your organisation? What are your experiences, good or bad? I would love to hear your feedback on this - in fact I would really value them ;-).


  1. Looking at our own church website there do not appear to be any value statements. The vision is clear and one I subscribe to but there is no explanation as to why. What is this community out of which this vision is birthed? Values speak of what is happening now and demand accountability; they are way-marks on the journey that is the vision. Christian values are spoken of a lot but seem to be hard to define. Each year, at our school, we review our values and check that what we say we are can be substantiated. I suppose the values we fail at then move into the vision as it is an aspiration.Vision demands a clear action plan where we see vision turning into values. The strange thing about vision statements is that the implication is that you aren't there yet. People need to know what you are claiming to be now not what you hope to be in the dim and distant future and how you plan to get there; they need to know the roots of your vision, what has been achieved and the way ahead. So if we aim to be a big church, what are the values that underpin this drive to growth. You can't be accountable to a vision. Values say what you are and demand frequent accountability, an accountability that strengthens the vision. Hopefully this is just semantics but thank you for raising the thought.

  2. Emlyn, thanks for your comments always interesting.
    I think there are three reasons why the values aren't on the Community Church website.
    I 'm not sure we have an agreed set of values, to be fair there is one that is given out at the membership course but I would imagine that no one but the people who have just gone on the course would be able to guess more than one or two.
    Then there is the tricky situation of the 'vision and values' of Newfrontiers - 17 wordy statements that are actually a set of objectives really but should we be following those?
    And finally I think the reasons I stated in the above article are in play as we have a set of values (locked up in a word document on a server) but are we living out these values? How would we know? Are they really important? If so wouldn't you think that you would see them more than just at one session during your induction?

    I also like what you said about reviewing things annually and turning the review into action for the year ahead.