So How About Some Examples of Values-Based Leaders!

In my Northwestern Kellogg classes and executive presentations I am often asked for specific examples of “values-based leaders”. After I explain the importance of the four leadership principles (self reflection, balance, true self confidence, and genuine humility) a common question is…”Okay, so who are ‘those guys’?”  Yes, I do tell them that we are all “those guys” (for more on that check out my previous blog post regarding #IAmThoseGuys), but a fair response is “So how about some examples of values-based leaders!”

Well, I was fortunate to be exposed to four values-based leaders this week in four very different occupations: a successful CEO, a phenomenal president of a not-for-profit, an NBA basketball coach, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve! Here’s a brief summary:

Scott Brown

1) Scott Brown is the President and CEO Emeritus of Sage Products, a leading healthcare company that is now part of Stryker. Scott was a guest speaker for my values-based leadership class last week and did a great job sharing his perspectives on leadership. I loved his comments regarding a story where he had to make a tough decision and someone said: “Well, it’s not personal”, to which he responded, “YES, it is always personal!!!” He summarized his commitment to “keeping it personal” as follows:

  • Keep it personal with our people (provide support for personal growth and professional development)
  • Keep it personal with our customer (develop, produce, and maintain the highest quality products)
  • Keep it personal with our leadership (demonstrate high visibility and accessibility)
  • Keep it personal with our community (remain visible and active leaders within our community)

A few more “Scott Brown highlights”:

  • First, make it all about the customer
  • Second, realize how many customers you really have
  • Third, never forget everyone is smarter than you about something

Art Mollenhauer

2) Art Mollenhauer is the President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Chicago (BBBS). I was fortunate to have Art as a colleague at Baxter International for more than 20 years. When he stepped down from his role as one of Baxter’s senior executives ten years ago, he said he wanted to work with a dedicated team to make a real difference in the world.  And that is exactly what he is doing at BBBS. He leads BBBS and has a board that is as professional as any for-profit company I have come across. He is a fantastic example of someone who loves each of the four principles of values-based leadership!!!

3) At Art’s BBBS conference this week, his guest speaker was Steve Kerr, the former Chicago Bulls player and now coach of the Golden State Warriors. I was extremely impressed both by his comments, and in the Q&A discussion, the number of times he referenced concepts right in line with values-based leadership. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • When you take over a new leadership position, don’t tear

    Steve Kerr and the gang

    down your predecessor; build off where they are and take it to the next level

  • Great teams form an “unbreakable bond”…the key is the ability to relate to every person on the team
  • Key to leadership is a combination of BOTH self confidence and humility (YES!!!….that really made me smile) 😉
  • I know what I am doing. but I am not afraid to ask others, ‘What do you think?’
  • Steve’s four key areas of focus for his team: joyful, compassionate, competitive, mindfulness

Janet Yellin

4) If that wasn’t enough, I had the opportunity to end the week attending an Executive Club of Chicago event featuring Fed chairman Janet Yellin. Her ability to explain the mission of the Federal Reserve, and what the Fed’s role has been year by year since the 2008 financial crisis, was extremely well done. It was clear that her key focus is BALANCE; scaling back the “financial accommodation” that has been key to the recovery without igniting inflation and gradually increasing interest rates. Her ability to take complicated topics and simplify them into their core components was fantastic, a true sign of a values-based leader. It is clear she is a very reflective person, especially when you realize that every single word she says is under the microscope!!

I hope I have the opportunity to spend time with more VBLs this coming week!

Have a great week!!


  • Wonderful Harry. Sage is a great organization and Scott Brown’s leadership is a very important reason why. His passion about the community is very meaningful and something he can cherish.

    Steve Kerr is a neat man who also was a player I remember on the Bulls. But his strong character was evident as a college student. Neat man.

    The others are very impressive as well

    Thank you for all this work on the behalf of workers everywhere. A healthy safe culture develops when we all remember “I am those guys”. Knowing they are out there keeps us going – and their knowing they are appreciated keeps THEM going. 😉

    I listen, ireflect, iPhone


  • Kathleen Goryl

    Kudos to Andrew and the team at One Acre Fund! I love that the farmers are pulling themselves out of poverty. That is the Catholic Charities model with their transitional housing program. In fact, the guests go through a program called “out of poverty”, with the same purpose. Teaching is wonderful in that it puts us in touch with idealistic students who still believe (as I do) that many things are possible. Andrew is in good company with some of the students I was blessed to have in my university courses. An online student at DePaul University wrote the most memorable paper I have ever received. She was a student in the chronic initiatives program for those that may not be able to physically get to a brick and mortar building. Her paper on ‘informed consent” has specific tangible suggestions for how to reform the informed consent laws/policies for healthcare today. Another student, the first in his family to graduate from college, created a paper-based medical record that is portable and able to be used by those accessing an inner city clinic in Chicago. DePaul, very mission-driven, shares Andrew’s perspective that people can pull themselves out of poverty, DePaul, very mission-driven, focuses on doing so through education–upgrading the entire family’s socio-economic status in the process. (In a good economy, that works well.) Kudos to the Gates Foundation for their work on polio. (Not a fan of their population control efforts.) Being mission-driven is key for me.


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