New RSM programme develops Values-Based Leadership

03 March 2016

In addition to building a company’s mission, vision and solid strategies, leaders are increasingly challenged to bridge their goals with those of their people. A new two-day programme by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) aims to help leaders create a shared sense of purpose, guiding them to truly inspire their workforce, at the end of the line fostering organisational commitment and productivity.

For decades, leadership has been one of the most debated topics in the world of management. Leaders are by many seen as the fundament and a key success factor of every organisation, with many empirical studies showing that companies with great leaders flourish. Skilful leaders with a vision can lift companies to a higher level. Yet, over the years the realm of leadership has been facing change – the rise of new trends and technologies, as well as changing perceptions of new generations, means that, just as any other line of business, leadership is adapting to its new environment.

While leadership traditionally revolved around having a clear-cut strategy, with a hierarchical mode of operating and a solid governance underpinning it to ensure execution, the globe’s new way of doing business pleads for more. Leaders these days need to lead their organisation through a rapidly changing and heated landscape, bringing capabilities such as innovation, agility and collaboration more to the forefront. These leaders face a varied and more fragmented talent pool – for example, generations X and Y have diverging views of purpose in work and career aspirations compared to baby boomers.

A sense of meaning
The main result, according to analysts, is that the traditional “carrot-and-stick leadership” that has dominated successful boardrooms for generations is losing its sustainability. Closer alignment between corporate objectives with the ideals and beliefs of the current and next generation workforce is needed, and this line of thought has stood at the basis of the recent rise of ‘Values-Based Leadership’.

“People increasingly seek meaningful work, and speaking to this desire for meaning is of great importance to leaders' ability to inspire engagement and a sense of ownership,” says Daan van Knippenberg, professor of organisational behaviour at RSM. “This ability to imbue a sense of meaning in the work lies at the core of values-based leadership.”

Reducing unethical behaviour
The benefits of Values-Based Leadership are receiving growing attention globally, says Van Knippenberg, citing employee engagement as the main exponent. “Values-Based Leadership reduces employees’ temptation to act unethically and decreases their resistance to change, which creates employee engagement and commitment to the organisation.” This in turn can spark a plethora of indirect benefits, such as a committed workforce delivering higher-quality work, a higher willingness to adopt important cultural change, and a more creative and innovative mind-set. In particular the latter is playing a growing role in shaping the competitive outlook of organisations – and, according to research, the role of human capital such as employee engagement in combination with new technologies is becoming the top factor in the march to the top.

Mobilise and inspire people
Yet, as with all fresh perspectives, leaders across the board are struggling to embrace Values-Based Leadership. In a bid to support those seeking doing so, Van Knippenberg and his team at RSM have developed a specialised two-day programme aimed at helping managers grasp the phenomenon and bring their learnings into practice. The programme kicks off by showing participants how adopting a values-based leadership approach can bring benefits, both at a personal level as well as to the organisation, and subsequently provides managers the skills and tools to better mobilise and inspire people. “Participants will learn these principles and learn to translate them to their own practice,” says Van Knippenberg. “This way, they can start being authentic, and build credibility and legitimacy immediately.” 

The Values-Based Leadership programme is aimed at leaders and managers with a responsibility or desire to lead, motivate and inspire others. It draws on participants’ experience, so participants who are mid-level or senior level with at least five years’ experience in a management position will benefit most.

The first run of the Values-Based Leadership programme is scheduled to start on Wednesday 6 July 2016 and will take place on RSM’s campus in Rotterdam. The two-day programme by RSM Executive Education is taught in English.