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Values Review

The actions of a leader who is abusing power can be so at odds with his proclaimed values that cognitive dissonance prevents us from fully registering the discrepancies. But we do experience discomfort at the perimeters of our awareness and must try to pay attention to it.

Whether we become aware of the values conflict gradually, or because of some isolated episode that assaults our sense of decency, this awareness must trigger a hard review of the leader’s actual values. To conduct a values review, we can:

Compile a list of our own values.

Compile a list of the leader’s stated values that we share.

Compile a list of recent actions taken by the leader.

Review which actions support our values and those the leader purports to share, and which conflict with them.

After completing the values review, we must make a decision:

If the leader’s actions largely support our values, and do not egregiously violate any of them, we should continue our support.

If the leader’s actions largely conflict with our values, or egregiously violate core values, we must be prepared to withdraw our support.

The critical differentiation in this process is between statements and actions. Leaders who violate values attempt to obfuscate the record with explanations. As long as we believe a leader is serving the common purpose, we would like to believe those explanations. We are prone to deny abusive acts. We may even become apologists for them. A hard look at actions clarifies the situation.