American Core Values Essays On Leadership



When it comes to organizations, “core values are the organization’s essential and enduring tenets–a small set of timeless guiding principles that require no external justification; they have intrinsic value and importance to those inside the organization.”[1]  When it comes to individuals, the same importance of Core Values holds true.  Core Values define who we are, who and what we care for, and what we strive to achieve.


Our parents are the ones who first instilled values into us. As we grew up, where we were living, our friends, and life experiences, helped us refine our own values. These Core Values are the drivers of my personality, the reason I get along with my best friends, and a big reason why Boston College is a good fit for me. 


We all have many values, but in order to narrow down these values to those that were core, I had a discussion with my parents.  They both gave me interesting views on the merit of Core Values, but most importantly, I was able to obtain an outside independent view of my values.  I was able to identify my two greatest values that define who I am and where I want to be.




As an Argentinean, Family plays a huge role in my life.  In Argentina, children live with their parents until they get married, and even then, they come back every weekend for a traditional asado (BBQ). During New Years Eve, the entire family spends the evening together, and only after the clock has struck midnight, do the children go out to clubs with their friends.  If my family were in trouble, I would do everything in my power to help them. 


Americans spend more time at work than ever before.[2]  Because of this fact, we tend to form a second family at our place of work.  I myself formed a second family at both State Street Corporation as well as Deloitte & Touche, LLP.  Only Deloitte recognized this as a value.  Their four shared values include “Commitment to each other”[3].  State Street Corporation didn’t have any Core Values however the people I worked with did share this value.  I enjoyed going to work with individuals I considered my second family, and I still am in contact with many ex-coworkers today.




Part of being a great volunteer is to love what you're doing. Find something that you're passionate about or something that inspires you, and then find a need in your community. There are dozens of reasons why you should volunteer - you just need to find the one that feels right.”[4]


One of the values instilled by my parents was the act of giving back to my community.  I feel very fortunate to have a life that is better than most, and I am lucky to have had parents who instilled in me the importance of giving back to my community.  I spent this past weekend organizing a bike ride for the second year in a row (but my fifth year fundraising) for Neurofibromatosis, Inc.  I also am a member of the Argentine Jewish Relief Committee of Greater Boston and am a trustee of my condominium association.


I very much enjoy giving back to my community for a cause that is greater than myself.  Amazingly, most corporations don’t value volunteering very much. Of the two organizations in which I worked prior to entering BC, only Deloitte had a program that valued volunteerism.  One day every year, every employee of Deloitte in the United States participates in IMPACT Day: “a day Deloitte member firms dedicate to proactively supporting the development of the communities in which they work and their people live.”[5] Boston College was one of the few MBA programs that had a Community Service requirement, and another reason why BC is a good fit for me.




Everyone’s parents has said “Do as I say, not as I do,” but if your boss said the same thing, one would be very annoyed. Kouzes & Posner write “To earn and sustain personal credibility, you must be able to clearly articulate your deeply held beliefs.”[7]  Many students including myself, were not convinced about the value of Core Values until we heard Ralph Folz, CEO of Molecular’s presentation.


Now I truly agree that “values can set a company apart from the competition by clarifying its identity and serving as a rallying point for employees.”[8]  State Street Corporation didn’t have any Core Values, and Deloitte’s Core Values were somewhere between vanilla and substance.  What Deloitte did have was a big alignment with my two important values of Family and Community Service and it showed with my increased overall happiness.


Now that I completed this exercise and believe in the importance in Core Values, I hope to find an organization that shares my same values after graduation.  Not only will it benefit me, but it will also benefit the organization for which I chose to work. Kouzes and Posner researched the correlation between the clarity of both ones personal and an organizations values and its impact on employee commitment.  What resulted was not surprising: employees who had the greatest clarity in both their own personal values and their organizations values, held the highest commitment to their organization.[9]


Perhaps I will work for a non-profit organization, or perhaps I will attempt to find an organization where I can contribute intellectually that also values work/life balance.  This will allow me to spend more time with my family and continue volunteering.  Now that I better recognize the value of aligned Core Values, I will put it to use when starting to look for internships and job placements.


[1]  Collins, Jim. (2004). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. 10th edn. New York: HarperCollins.

[2]Is America Overworked? At: (Accessed: September 24).

[3]Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct. At: (Accessed: September 23).

[4]20 Reasons to Volunteer. (Accessed: September 24).

[5]Deloitte member firms celebrate community involvement worldwide on annual Impact Day At:,1014,sid%253D1017%2526cid%253D121292,00.html (accessed: September 24).

[6] Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (2003) The Leadership Challenge. 3rd edn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

[8] Lencioni, Patrick M., “Make Your Values Mean Something.” HBR. 2002.

[9] Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (2003) The Leadership Challenge. 3rd edn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

It's a cliché, but when it comes to ethical culture, tone from the top – or how the most senior people in your organisation act – really does count.

Leaders set the example. They determine direction, goals and priorities. They make important decisions and choose who and what to reward. And when things go wrong, they determine the consequences. Getting the role models and authority figures in your company to walk the talk may be the single most important thing you can do to build your culture of integrity.

How not to lead

Figures show there’s work to do to get corporate leaders to live by the high ethical standards expected of them. As people rise up the hierarchy the stakes get bigger, and so do the pressures and temptations. Yet if the very people who are meant to act as role models behave badly, this is bound to trickle down to employees, too.

OECD analysis of foreign bribery enforcement actions reveals that most international bribes are paid by large companies, with senior management knowledge. This pattern is repeated in the US, where ERC’s National Business Ethics Survey 2013 found that over half of misconduct incidents involved supervisory to top management (see Figure 2). Senior managers were responsible for a quarter of observed misdeeds and were more likely than lower-level managers to flout rules.

FIGURE 2. Most misconduct committed by managers

Source: Ethics Resource Center, 2014. National Business Ethics Survey of the US Workforce (NBES 2013), Arlington: ERC.

Actions say it all

Integrity is a fundamental leadership attribute and it’s essential for a strong, ethical culture that good conduct starts at the top. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ cannot be the basis for a culture of integrity. Ethical leadership includes the following traits:

  • Aligning thoughts, words and deeds.

  • Modelling the behaviour we ask of others.

  • Learning as well as teaching.

  • Considering stakeholder needs, including global society and the planet.

Leaders who demonstrate 24/7 integrity and establish ethical conduct as a priority by putting in place high standards, setting a good example and communicating openly will exert the positive influence on employees that is the oxygen of strong ethical culture. Follow-through is vital. A good example, according to Ethisphere’s Timothy Erblich, is GE. ‘When someone raises their hand they’ll get a call from GE President and CEO Jeff Immelt or someone to say ‘‘Good job, we’re glad you did that!’”

The role of the CEO

As the head of the company, the CEO has an oversize role in shaping the ethical culture: they set the example. The way they act, the messages they send and the objectives they choose are key determinants of company culture. Scania’s Andreas Follér agrees. ‘The CEO is the company embodied’, he stresses, ‘I can’t overemphasise how crucial it is that the CEO is active. That’s more or less their top task – to safeguard and remind the organisation of its culture.’

The boss is a powerful influence when it comes to ethical culture change. Their role includes:

  • Framing the big picture around ethics and leading the senior management team in determining the organisation’s values.

  • Articulating clear demands and expectations for ‘how’ as well as ‘what’ business objectives must be achieved in line with those values.

  • Keeping an open door for dialogue and continually reinforcing ethical culture by being a ‘storyteller’.

  • Creating a positive legacy by empowering others to make right choices for the long term.

It takes around five years to push ethical culture change down through middle management. With the average tenure of a listed company chief executive just five years, their focus should be on leaving a positive legacy by embedding values for the long term and empowering others to carry on the baton.

The role of the board

The board’s primary function in creating and maintaining a culture of integrity is to oversee the long-term interests of the company and its stakeholders and see that value is generated in an ethical way. Its responsibilities include helping to steer corporate values and ensuring that the executive team adequately balances corporate objectives with risk management and values-led behaviour so that long-term value generation is safeguarded for all stakeholders.

A well-functioning board holds the CEO and senior leadership to account by asking the right questions, verifying that adequate checks and balances are in place to manage risk, supporting tough calls and – if necessary – changing the team if they fail to deliver against company values and stakeholder expectations. Betsy Rafael, a director at Autodesk and GoDaddy, calls this a ‘noses in but hands off’ tactic. The board needs to stay alert to red flags like inconsistencies, decisions that clash with values, and make sure that particularly high-stakes situations where values may be compromised ‘pass the sniff test’.

By working closely with the relevant steering group, internal audit, ethics and HR functions, the board can monitor the ethical climate of the organisation and health of the E&C programme. A good way to take the ethical pulse is to invite open-ended discussion about problems and use visits to unofficially ‘kick the tyres’ and ‘get under the hood’ of the E&C programme.

The role of the manager

It’s when values are lived consistently by every person in the company that a culture of integrity is created. Managers are responsible for embedding values through the ranks. Says RBS’s Laing: ‘Tone from the top is very important but not helpful if that just turns into a diktat about how you must behave. People also have to think for themselves.’

Managers are key to ensuring this happens. They serve as an essential conduit to deliver and reinforce the message in a multitude of ways to frontline employees, and have the best view and insight into real-life operational challenges that people face on the job.

“Tone from the top is fine, but what about the ‘‘muddle in the middle?’’ 30,000 of our 42,000 people are either blue collar or frontline. If you don’t embed the culture in these people you’ve failed. They won’t breach the bribery act in a material way, the Serious Fraud Office won’t be knocking on your door, but if you don’t deal with the culture here, the culture won’t be right in the organisation, and things will become problematic.” Sam Al Jayousi, Group Compliance Manager, Carillion 

As well as being a role model, their first job is to engage their team or unit in defining how the values contained in the CoC translate and apply in daily work. This means using their unique understanding of each role – and the challenges and risks that go with it – to develop clear guidelines. These will differ according to function: sales, for example, face very different sets of issues to R&D and this should be factored into guidelines.

Their second task is to set balanced key performance indicators (KPIs) that reward behaviour consistent with the company’s values and don’t put staff under unfair pressure to cut corners. Giving immediate feedback – both good and bad – is essential, along with making sure promotions reflect good performance on values and ethics metrics as well as bottom line results.

Finally, the manager needs to foster a ‘speak-up’ culture by making it clear that their door is always open for discussion, that reports will be acted on, and that no sanctions will be taken against whistleblowers. Providing regular feedback on investigations helps build this trust.

Ultimately, values are everybody’s business. The integrity of an organisation boils down to the sum of individual choices and actions of every employee. Along with modelling ‘right’ behaviours, senior leaders need to ensure that effective education and incentives are there to empower each individual to do things right.

Leadership tips

  • Make high personal integrity, good character and strong alignment with your company’s values key criteria for promotion to all leadership roles.

  • Bake the requirement to consistently walk the talk into management job descriptions and monitor whether their stated business objectives actively support ethical conduct throughout the organisation.

Tips for the CEO

  • Keep ethics high on your CEO’s radar with excellent regular briefings, strong messaging and great stories to tell that... p48 box

This is an edited extract from the book 'Creating a Culture of Integrity', part of the DōShorts Sustainable Business Collection

OECD  culture  cr culture  Good culture  Leadership  Responsible leaders 


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