That was the title of my presentation about Values-Based Leadership to a group of executives at the Madinah Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship.
I explained that the name is not that of an existing school, but is the metaphor for a virtual school. The school that has been inspiring lessons of learning and wisdom for over 1400 years.
During the last five decades there has been a growing body of knowledge emerging about organizational leadership. It was suggested that more recent leadership models have shifted the focus from the qualities of a solo leader to those of a team leader whose leadership success depends not just on the personal competencies, but more importantly, on the manner in which they forge relationships with their team members. These models emphasise the important contribution of leaders to team performance.
Bernard Bass crystallised the Transformational Leadership model where the leader’s primary aim is to transform his team members as well as the organization by clarifying purpose and values; expanding vision; creating a corporate culture where values are consistently practiced; embracing change with confidence and courage; and sharing success by motivating and empowering followers to be innovative.
The three main drivers of a transformational leader are[i]:
- Intellectual stimulation
- Inspirational motivation
- Acting as a mentor and role model
More recently, Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic and currently a professor at HBS, coined the term of Authentic Leadership[ii]. The inner strength of authentic leaders is derived from self-awareness. When the 75 members of Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council were asked to recommend the most important capability for leaders to develop, their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness[iii].
Authentic leaders are those who demonstrate influence through practicing their own values consistently, building their teams and empowering them to lead and make a difference. They create long-term relationships and sustain it with trust and respect. Their values-based management approach clearly distinguishes them and their greatest legacy is the group of team members who follow as potential leaders. These models apply to both political leadership and business organizations.
Referring back to the metaphorical school of Badr, a scene shortly after combat ended is worth pondering over.The Prophet (PBUH) was inspecting the captives of Quraysh. Many of them were amongst the most cruel persecutors of Muslims. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stood there and with firm conviction publically communicated his inspirational motivation “Had AlMut’im Bin Uday been alive and asked me to release these miserable captives, I would have obliged”. AlMut’im was a person who had done great favours to the Prophet and the Muslim community in Makkah. Following the Prophet’s tumultuous trip to AlTa’if, AlMut’im feared the worst for Muhammad. He then announced to Quraysh that Muhammad was in his protection even though he was not a believer in the faith. He was to be remembered for this act of chivalry and nobility. He was also among the few unbelievers in Makkah who strongly opposed the malicious sanctions imposed against Muslims by Quraysh. The sanctions had resulted in the death and suffering of many young children and frail men and women. For AlMut’im Bin Uday that suffering was inhumane and he decided to bring it to an end by tearing off the agreement which sanctioned it.
Al Mut’im had passed away some years before Badr and there was no obvious reason for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to make that announcement, except perhaps to seizean opportune moment in which to declare his acknowledgment of AlMut’im’s dutiful actions. It was a moment wherein he chose to demonstrate the values so well cherished by Muslims; integrity, loyalty, fairness, and recognition and respect of noble conduct. It was also an attempt to make an historical illustration of this message so that it is heeded by all generations to come. The impact of that historical statement created a culture of values-based leadership which has been treasured throughout Muslim history. Those companions who were nurtured in such a moral culture were quick to demonstrate its efficacy. Hassan Bin Thabit, used his poetic mastery to pay tribute to the nobility of AlMut’im Bin Uday after his death.
A values-based management approach in today’s business environment is essential for its success and is also encouraged by Muslim tradition. Business enterprises have been discovering the tangible advantages of a values-based approach to management. Successful business and strong values go hand in hand, as the UK’s number one confectionery manufacturer, Cadbury’s marketing slogan reveals; performance driven, values led. Quality, respect, integrity and responsibility are core values of the Cadbury business.
Levi Strauss developed a code of conduct which comprises ethical standards, environmental requirements and community involvement. In 2008, Banco Real of Brazil was named Sustainable Bank of the Year and also took the overall Emerging Markets prize in the FT Sustainable Banking Awards, presented by the Financial Times and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group. Banco Real began its successful journey to global prominence by positioning values at the heart of its business strategy[iv]. Honesty, trust, and societal concerns were primary business drivers that influenced the bank’s relationship with its internal and external stakeholders.
In Saudi Arabia, the Savola Group has been keen to create a culture of ethics permeating all aspects of the organization. Its corporate slogan is Our Values is our Worth. The driving concept behind its business success was the Savola 8 values; which constitute, Confident Humility, Apprenticeship, Fierce Resolve, Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, Trusting, Accepting, Approaching, and Caring.
It is prudent for business leaders of today to articulate the moral vision of their enterprises in a manner consistent with the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
“The purpose of my mission is to compliment the best of moral standards”