core values

What Do I Do If My Leaders Are Not Role Modelling Core Values?


Written by Jean Lee

General Manager, OD


In every organisation we work for, we’re always reminded of the importance of living out our organisational core values. These core values help us stay engaged with our work and fosters collaboration with our team to work together towards achieving the organisation’s goals.  As much as you’re enthusiastic about embarking on this journey, you may encounter some leaders who aren’t role modelling these core values. You’re concerned that this may affect how the team collaborates but you’re not sure how you can express this concern to your leaders. 


Yes, I can understand that you’re frustrated by the helplessness of the situation, but there are things that you can do as an employee to encourage your leaders to begin role modelling core values: 


  • Seek first to understand - Often conflicts come from a lack of understanding of both parties’ perspectives. Ask yourself these questions: What’s making it hard for my leaders to role model the core values? What’s the exciting or ennobling big-picture outcome that they’re trying to work towards that I may not be aware of? Answering these questions will help you to consider their perspective and foster greater understanding between the both of you. 


  • Forgive them for being human - While your leaders are admirable people for achieving what they have, you should understand that they’re also human and will not be perfect all the time . Was what you experienced a one-time rare occasion of a human lapse? In that case, you may want to forgive and reconcile with them. If it’s a trend that's hurting the team or the achievement of the bigger picture, you may then want to have a Real Conversation with him/her.


  • Support and Encourage them - Ask yourself: Is there something I can do to help relieve my leader’s load so that they can focus beyond the task and focus on their people? Express your concerns to lift their spirits and give them words of appreciation to cheer them on. You’ll also want to develop and strengthen yourself at work to show that you want to support them well.


I hope the above guiding points energise you and help you through your situation, but you should also watch out for these DON’T:


  • Call them out in public. We are often advised to give timely feedback. However, unless there’s an agreement prior to the situation for you to give immediate feedback, it’s always wise to assess if your leader is receptive to your feedback first - before offering it. Giving feedback out of the blue not only embarrasses your leader but also adds stress to the person,  deterring a positive posture of receiving feedback. It may also be perceived as an annoying derailment to resolving the task or issue at hand, so it’s a double no-no in this context.


  • Allow the conversation to turn into a confrontation. Naturally, this is a difficult conversation to have with your leader as the truth will hurt and may create negative emotions that could turn into a confrontation. You can prevent this confrontation by aiming to be genuine in expressing the truth during the conversation. Put away your facade and show your leader care and concern that goes beyond self-interest. This allows you to facilitate the conversation and bring the situation to a meaningful close. 


I encourage you to take these Dos and Don'ts into account when you approach your leader to talk through your concerns. Let your conversation be guided with you being supportive, encouraging and understanding of your leader's situation. If your leader is receptive to your genuine concerns, you and your team will be able to move forward together in living out the organisation's core values to achieve shared goals. 


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