What was your reaction when new Barclay’s boss, Antony Jenkins, announced recently that he wanted staff to adhere to a new ethical code of conduct or they could leave the organisation?

A fresh approach from someone who genuinely believes in values-driven leadership?  A tough-talking guy making his mark in a PR crisis?  Or purely rhetoric to get external critics off Barclay’s back?

Whichever view you took, it is clear that the issues of corporate values and ethical behaviour in business have taken a battering for some time now.  It has led to a raft of blog chatter about whether or not a new paradigm for leading and managing is emerging.

The jury is still out and I remain unconvinced that those in power and authority are reading the runes of public opinion in a way that genuinely shapes their actions in practice.

So what does the UK public think?

A major new, ground-breaking study has been completed recently by Barrett Values Centre in consultation with the Office of National Statistics and charity Action for Happiness.

The report, Increasing Happiness by Understanding What People Want, is based on interviews with 4000 people in the UK and identified their personal values, the values they currently experience in their local communities and in the nation as a whole, as well as the values they want to see reflected in their communities and the nation.

  • People’s personal values centre around caring, family, honesty, humour/fun, friendship, fairness, and compassion.
  • The top values people see in the UK are bureaucracy, crime and violence, uncertainty about the future, corruption, blame, wasted resources, media influence, conflict/aggression, drugs/alcohol abuse and apathy.
  • Desired values focused on caring for the elderly and disadvantaged, affordable housing, employment opportunities, accountability, honesty, government effectiveness, effective healthcare, employment opportunities and dependable public services.

What does this mean for leaders and organisations?   

According to Richard Barrett, founder and chairman of the Barrett Values Centre, the challenge for UK leaders is to build a values-driven society.  “Our leaders need to show us the way.  They need to become role models of values-driven leadership and they need to show us that they exercise care and compassion for the needs of the elderly and disadvantaged.”

Dr Mark Williamson, director of Action for Happiness, felt “the research suggests that we need political leadership which better reflects the values of the UK people.”

What does this mean for you?

  • What are the values and behaviours that are important to you?
  • What do you experience and perceive where you work?
  • How well do your personal values align with your employer’s values?
  • How much of a part do your personal values play in your decisions about your job, company, and career?