Making Values Real

Isabelle de Morlhon

The last few weeks have provided me with opportunities to reflect on values and leadership, both on a personal and on an organisational level. As my On Purpose year is flying by, and as I am moving on from my first placement at The Shaftesbury Partnership very soon, this blog allows me to capture a few thoughts:

One of the essential aspectsof the On Purpose programme, and one that I initially underestimated, lies in the personal development of the Associates. This has given me a unique chance at this stage in my career to reflect on what is important to me, what my values are, how they guide my behaviours, and how I can stay true to them in the choices I make.

 A couple of weeks ago my fellow On Purpose Associates and I spent a long weekend at Embercombe, a beautiful Devonshire site established to inspire transformative leadership. As one of the Associates reports, “true leadership starts with knowing yourself”. Understanding your deep personal values and thinking about how to translate them in every aspect of your life is something which I believe is a key factor to happiness, as well as success. And it seems that this is increasingly valued by young professionals and students, who seek alignment between their values and their job – they are looking for “work with purpose”.

How do values also apply at an organisational level? McKinsey’s 7S framework puts “shared values” at the centre of any other internal aspect of an organisation (Strategy, Structure, Systems, Style, Staff, Skills) – with the belief that without values, an organisation doesn’t hold together and can’t survive. This highlights that values cannot be (just) a set of words on the wall, but need to live in everyday actions, and inspire the entire business.

The work I’ve been doing on ‘values’ here at SP has brought to life how our values support our behaviours. We recently came together as a team to talk about our values. We discussed what they really mean for us and how we apply them in concrete ways in our work. For example, our commitment to improving people’s lives while ensuring business sustainability guides our approach to launching ventures, as we test options with our end-users, iterate, and measure results to deliver excellent execution in the pilot and at scale. Our respect for people and hatred for injustice means that we approach every person with the same respect, whatever their position – SP partners would regularly in the same week meet senior business or government leaders as well as disadvantaged people, and engage with them with the same interest.

A strong emphasis on values seems particularly relevant in the field of social change, and I believe they are truly the foundation to personal and organisational leadership.

If you would like to comment on this blog, please email:

view all blog entries