Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Rediscovering Lost Values: Exploring Contextual and Universal Views of Values within Leadership

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Rediscovering Lost Values: Exploring Contextual and Universal Views of Values within Leadership

Article excerpt

. . .the first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his sermon, "Rediscovering Lost Values").

Dr. martin luther king, jr. delivered the "Rediscovering Lost Values" sermon as a guest minister at Second Baptist Church in Detroit, MI in 1954. Throughout the sermon, Dr. King (a civil rights leader and pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA) discusses his belief that our values have taken a turn for the worse. He states that people tend to change their values and morals to fit the given situation, and urges the congregation to understand that "all reality hinges on moral foundations."

While Dr. King delivered this sermon many years ago, the concept of valuesbased approaches to leadership (i.e., transformational, authentic, spiritual, servant, charismatic, ethical, etc.) is still a current and highly researched topic in leadership. The basic tenet of values-based approaches to leadership is that leaders can and should influence followers' values in order to motivate employees and achieve superior performance (Avolio et al., 2009). This idea is not new, as Chester Barnard (1938, p. 279) stated, "the distinguishing mark of managerial responsibility is that it requires not merely conformance to a complex code of morals but also the creation of moral codes for others." However, the question of the origin of these values differs within leadership approaches, where the specific role of values tends to fall within two separate views. Some approaches view leader values as universal; in other words, the leader always espouses his/her personal values to their followers. Other approaches contend that the leader's espoused values depend on the context, and could be either the leader's personal values, those of the organization, or even aligned to meet the expectations of their followers (Shamir, 2007). This distinction is important because followers often link the leader's espoused values with their own, which impacts their commitment to the leader's mission and their overall performance (Brown and Trevino, 2009). Values-based leadership depends on the moral content conveyed (Burns, 1998), and the leader may impart the values set forth by the organization or the situation instead of the leader's personal values (Carlson and Perrewe, 1995).

Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to explore the alignment of values within leadership in order to approach the universal versus contextual debate. To that end, we begin with a review of the current literature, which includes an overview of values, as well as context-specific and universal approaches to valuesbased leadership. Next, we provide an overview of our focal leader (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) and the values lexicon methodology used to assess his espoused values through his most prominent speeches and sermons. Finally, results are presented, followed by the discussion section and conclusion.

Literature review


Values are defined in numerous ways in the literature, sometimes with little agreement between definitions. Yukl (1998) contended that values are "internalized attitudes about what is right and wrong, ethical or unethical, moral and unmoral" (Yukl, 1998, p. 234). Meglino and Ravlin (1998) viewed values in concert with behavior, suggesting that values are "a person's internalized belief about how he or she should or ought to behave" (p. 354). A common definition, suggested by Rokeach (1973, p. 5), views a value as "an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence."

Following Rokeach (1973), Schwartz (1992) developed a theory of basic human values based on ten values that focus on the motivation of the individual: Power, Achievement, Hedonism, Stimulation, Self-direction, Universalism, Benevolence, Tradition, Conformity, and Security (Appendix A provides a description of each value). …

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