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What’s the Value of Value? Are we trapping leaders in a meaningless measurement mind-set?

Leaders have always been required to deliver increased value from the assets they have under their stewardship. In some organisations this is the very essence and definition of effective leadership and they reward their leaders accordingly. Clearly hitting performance targets is a key aspect of any leaders role but a balance needs to be found between how this is achieved and the long term sustainability of the organisation. The idea that leaders have to constantly strive for more, putting increased pressure on their organisation and the people who work for them, is not sustainable. A new way has to be found.

Thankfully, some leaders have found that a more balanced and holistic approach to delivering ‘Value’ can create the elusive sustainable growth that all organisations need to survive.

As Einstein so eloquently put it – ‘Not everything that counts can be counted’ and great leadership, despite the plethora of competency frameworks and organisational key performance indicators, is I believe, one of those things.

When I am coaching I often ask leaders what do they want to be remembered for? Many never even mention the current results they are being asked to deliver, as deep down they know these targets are ephemeral. Instead they seek to be remembered for the way they behave and interact with others, they cite attributes of their personality and hope that they will be remembered for being for example; firm but fair; even handed; decisive; clear in vision and deed; enthusiastic in temperament; etc.

There is a paradox here as the attributes leaders see as important are not the ones that are rewarded by most organisations. There is a risk that some organisations are trapped in a meaningless measurement mind-set, seeking only to measure in a tangible way the impact leaders have on the organisation and significantly discounting the intangible and peripheral value great leaders always deliver.

I was reminded recently of the passing of Adrian Cadbury in late 2015. There were so many ex-employees looking to attend the memorial service that the Cathedral in Birmingham was packed to overflowing. It was humbling to behold. The controversial takeover of Cadbury by Kraft in 2010 was, no doubt, driven by the desire to maximise ‘shareholder value’ however as the family wrote at the time:

“A bidder can buy a business, but what they cannot acquire is legitimacy over the character, values, experience and traditions on which that business was founded and flourished.”

Adrian Cadbury will be remembered amongst other things, for his personal touch and insightful mind. It is said he often dropped into the plant after some evening function, still in evening attire, to casually chat to the nightshift and see how they were doing. From such actions legends are made.

As we strive to develop our leaders of the future it behoves us to remember that real value is not only what is measured, but what is remembered, and much of this cannot be measured at all. In our Leadership 2020 development programme we tackle this topic and if you are interested in hearing more about this then please contact me and I can help your leaders be remembered for all the right reasons.