Why Leaders Need to Role Model and Live Your Company Values

Guest post from Debra Corey:

My 18 year-old daughter has entered the workforce, full of energy, full of passion and full of some very strong opinions. And her top opinion, her absolute top pet peeve is when a leader or manager says one thing and does another. In her words, she hates hypocrites! And yes, she may be young, and she may still be learning her way around the workplace, but she is actually right – our employees deserve leaders who walk the talk!

One area where this is absolutely critical is when it comes to company values, the subject of my new book, ‘Bringing Your Values Out to Play’. It’s so important that I devoted an entire chapter to it, talking about why it’s important that leaders role model their company values, showing their workforce what they mean and how they should be lived.

But why are values important? What purpose do they serve to your company? Here are three answers to this question:

1. Values define who you are.
Values define who you are as a business, what you stand for (and against), and what you are willing to fight for. This is important because it tells potential and existing employees and customers what you believe in and how you’ll behave, clearly defining this upfront in a meaningful way. And in this competitive world, the better we can do this through our values, the better chance we have of standing out from our competitors and attracting and retaining talent and customers.

2. Values guide decisions and actions.

Values act as guidelines, guiding principles, or guideposts to your employees, helping them make everyday operational and strategic decisions, even when leaders are not around. When used properly, employees use them to ask questions such as, “what do my values say about this?” and “how can my values help me choose a path and make a decision?” This is important at all times, but especially in bad or challenging ones, where values provide the focus and guidance we need to persevere.

3. Values fuel your workforce.

Values give your employees the energy and passion to not only make decisions, but to get things done. This passion, this energy, is so critical in the business world, and when being led by values, it ensures that it’s being done in the right way and in the right direction.

Company values can and should be one of the most strategic tools a company has, helping your employees and your company achieve its mission and purpose. Which is why it’s worrying that according to data from Reward Gateway only 32 percent of employees say they feel informed about their values, and according to data from Gallup only 23 percent of employees use them as they go about their work.


To change these numbers we need our leaders to start leading from the top, for when it comes to company values – it all starts and stops from the top, with our leaders!

Start by making sure that your leaders fully understand your company values, don’t assume that they do. Ensure they know what they mean, how they impact their decisions and actions, and how they should and need to be lived. Take the time to help them understand them, making them more than words on a wall, but something they use over and over again as a filter for their decisions and actions.

Next, hold your leaders and managers accountable for role modelling and living your values – never ever let them off the hook for something this important. Remember, they are setting the tone and direction for others to follow, signalling what should and shouldn’t be done. If they’re not doing this, they’re taking their team down the wrong path!

And last, but certainly not least, is to be brave and let go of any of your leaders and managers who after all you’ve done to support and develop them are not role modelling your values. It’s the right thing to do for your business, and the right thing to do for your workforce. It may be difficult, but your values will never do what you need them to do if your entire workforce is not bringing them out to play.

Remember, we don’t want hypocrites leading our business, we want and need leaders who truly walk the walk, using values to help and guide them at every step.


Debra Corey is a much-admired, charismatic and highly respected figure in the Human Resources world, recently being named one of the top 101 global employee engagement influencers. She’s had a varied and exciting career over the last 20+ years, working for global companies such as Gap Inc., Honeywell, Merlin Entertainments and Reward Gateway to name a few, where she’s developed and delivered HR strategies in a rebellious way, pushing the boundaries and challenging the status quo to truly drive employee engagement.

She’s a three-time author, with her latest book on company values titled ‘Bringing Your Values Out to Play’, and her previous books being ‘Build it: The Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement’ and ‘Effective HR Communication: A framework for communicating programmes with IMPACT’.

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