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CONTRIBUTOR / Harry Kraemer


When was the last time you heard an inspiring leader say, “I haven’t made a move yet, because I’ve been waiting on other people.” It would be a strange thing to hear, because stagnancy is inherently contradictory to good leadership. Kraemer outlines the four underlying principles of values-based leadership–self-reflection, a balanced perspective, true self-confidence, and humility–that transform those who wait around into those who take initiative.


When one talks about leadership, sometimes people will say, “Well, I’d really love to be a leader, but I don’t have anybody reporting to me.”

One of the key things about leadership is that leadership really has nothing to do with organizational charts and titles; leadership has everything to do with the ability to influence people.

And the only way you can influence people is you have to be able to relate to people.

And if you’re going to relate to people, the only way that’s going to happen is through trust.

The more trust that you can develop, the more you’ll be able to relate to people, influence people, and lead people.

And as I always remind folks, the people that are the leaders literally exhibit leadership long before, long before they have anybody reporting to them.

And I often tell the story that sometimes in companies, there’s this view of, “Boy, I’d really like to get started, but I can’t yet. We have to wait for some group of people.” You say, “Well, who do we have to wait for?”

Well, there’s this infamous group of people that seems to exist in most companies that get referred to as “those guys.” There’s this magical group of men and women called “those guys we have to wait for.”

And as I try to remind people who want to be leaders, when do you become a leader? You become a leader as soon as you realize, “I am one of those guys. I’m one of the men or women who’s going to make a difference.

“Why? Because I’m going to establish relationships based on trust and have an enormous impact on the organization regardless of my level, regardless of my title.”

Bumper: 4 Ways to Establish Trust as a Values-Based Leader

From my perspective, if you’re the CEO of an organization—whether it’s 10 people or 50,000 people—you are one of the people (and I stress one of the people) responsible for building trust with customers, partners, suppliers.

As the former CEO of Baxter Healthcare, I would always get asked the question, “Boy, how do you deal with all these stakeholders? You have your team members, you have customers, you have suppliers, you have society, you have shareholders. Boy, there’s got to be a whole lot of conflicts between these.”

My perspective is, if you’re a value-based leader and you’re focused on building trust, you actually realize these are not in conflict. In the bigger picture, it’s all in exactly the same direction.

To the extent somebody wants to be a value-based leader and really establish trust, my view is there’s four things that you need to focus on as a leader.

Number one, you need to become self-reflective. You need to start to think about, “What are my values? What do I stand for? What’s my purpose? What really matters?”

Number two, I have to focus on developing a balanced perspective. And when I say “a balanced perspective,” many people have very, very strong opinions; the problem is they have virtually no understanding of other perspectives.

But the value-based leaders takes the time to understand all sides of the story. They establish trust because they demonstrate they really care about what each person has to say.

Number three, a value-based leader focuses on what I refer to as “true self-confidence.” They know what they know; they admit what they don’t know; they’re a learning person.

And the fourth and final key part of being a value-based leader is genuine humility. In genuine humility, you realize every single person matters.

And if you want to establish trust in an organization, you don’t take the view, “Well, I’m a director level now. Well, these people are below me.” No, nobody’s below you.

You as a leader are the person who’s below because you realize every single person matters. That isn’t just a nice thing to say; you actually believe it.

And to the extent you can make progress on becoming a little more self-reflective, establish more balance, have true self-confidence and genuine humility, your ability to build relationships and trust in the organization will truly put you on the path to becoming a value-based leader.