We all joke about singing from the same hymn sheet or indeed even being in the same church.  But there’s a serious lesson here that some organisations have failed to learn to their cost.  And the key word here is ‘values’.

Humans are individuals with their own sets of values and beliefs. Businesses too, have organisational values and goals.  People join organisations because they like what they see.  They stay because their personal values match those of the organisation.   And they move on if they don’t.

Aligning these human and organisational values is the key to success in the modern business world where speed is vital and trust its key catalyst.

The simple truth is “me” becomes “we” and when an individual feels strongly that they are part of an organisation that affords them great benefit.  They become disempowered as individuals and much more empowered as a team. They feel stronger within and are therefore loathe to stand up for themselves against their peers.

We are taught in modern education to conform, to be right, to go with the majority. But right is often merely a matter of current opinion. Think back to when the world was flat, women could not vote, capital punishment was an acceptable result of serious criminality, tobacco was good for you, drink driving acceptable. All are now considered unacceptable behaviours within most modern Western societies.

The images of a South African taxi driver being dragged behind a police vehicle for illegal parking and news of his subsequent death in custody has shocked the world. Here we see an appalling example of a state organisation with a poor organisational culture that has become unacceptable to most South Africans.

Last October saw the killing of 44 people at a Marikana mine, the deadliest police action since the end of apartheid. More recently the police officer responsible for the prosecution evidence against Oscar Pistorious was publicly removed from the case as a result of his own pending murder charges. The question is: what type of culture exists within the South African police force. Why do good individuals who join an organisation to uphold the law, then behave this way?

The answer comes from the top.  Poor leadership allows values to slip and behaviour changes in groups to shift. Good leadership upholds values and deals with unacceptable behaviour by stopping it in its tracks.

Visualize a fire-fighter rushing into a building, or a Royal Naval ship venturing into dangerous seas. These acts of extreme bravery are an agreed-upon condition of an individual’s employment at the time of their joining. These are the same acts of commitment as our valiant soldiers undertake in fighting and risking life and limb in foreign wars. They each serve with pride, commitment and passion; their agreed-upon commitment. The power of this commitment becomes a personal promise to do the very best job possible.  What these brave souls deserve are good leaders.

Napoleon once stated “There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers” and I believe he was absolutely right. Individual incidents and mistakes will always happen but when organisations go seriously wrong it’s because of the leadership culture that exists within the organisation.  Invariably when an organisation is in trouble, things are going wrong in several areas.  It’s rarely a one-off incident.

Sampson Hall say:  know and publish your organisational values and you will recruit individuals that match them.   it is then up to the leadership to ensure that the behaviour within the organisation matches those values, however complex and difficult that may be.

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