Leaders in Bhutan exercised good governance by identifying, debating and selecting 9 core values that inform the life they strive to live. They then engaged leaders in every organization in determining how to embed these values in daily life.
Values-driven leadership in the workplace is a practice many organizations are now embracing. The core values we determine and aspire to live by, both personally and professionally, provide a solid foundation for our behaviours, policies, principles and practices. Overt or covert, they determine how any organization does what it does. The more consciously and collaboratively an organization or team identifies and creates a map for how to embed values, the more cohesive and high functioning the organization will be, and the better served their customers will be.
In Bhutan, leaders focused on developing values that would create jobs, manage the gap between the rich and the poor, and ensure integrity in themselves and their organizations. They consulted in every geography and sector. As they are still in early stages of a migration from rural to urban centres, sustaining core values is particularly important. They have carefully observed the experiences of other neighbouring countries such as Nepal whose rapid urbanization and growing tourism sector has created huge social-economic problems and irrevocable damage to the environment. By comparison, Bhutan has taken thoughtful steps such as subsidizing subsistence farmers to diversify crops and livestock, and preserving a de-centralized government charged with the vitality of the economy in their region. Professionals are placed geographically by the government; so as to maintain high levels of education and expertise in all regions. Travel agencies, which comprise the largest source of income for the country, operate under strict rules of environmental protection, caps on trekking groups and times of year, and utilization of local businesses. For example, when we did the Lhasa trek, travelling from an elevation of 7000 feet to 16,000 feet over 3 weeks, our ponies or yaks were changed up every 2 days so as to provide employment and income to different, local owners.
How Schools Live Values
Every school day at Changangka begins with a full assembly of 850 students in the outdoor courtyard. The grounds are filled with beauty: many species of trees, wild life and the different gardens which the students plant and tend. There are usually several dogs standing beside the children facing the front obligingly. There is a prayer to Avalokiteshvara, the god of wisdom and compassion, followed by the national anthem. Then two students present a short speech on the benefits of healthy living and taking care of the earth, one in their native language Dzongka and the other in English, which is the language of instruction from Kindergarten through Grade 12. I was very impressed by the references they made to their outdoor activities, the healthy eating habits in their families and the caring they provide to elders and neighbours.
In every classroom, there are hand-made posters of the 4 Pillars and 9 Domaines of Gross National Happiness. The first lesson begins every day with reference to them and with a short meditation focused on how each student, teacher and administrator will direct their attention and behaviour today. Every day of the week revolves around a healthy activity, such as green Tuesdays, when everyone brings a lunch consisting primarily of green vegetables. Every student has a uniform, the same backpack and re-usable water bottles. Recesses are unsupervised and students are encouraged to run around and burn off energy, tend to their gardens, or care for younger children.
In the developed world, while there is an appreciation for the benefits of knowing and living our own and organizational core values and for our leaders to develop and reinforce values-based behaviour in their teams, the practice cannot be as integrated as it is in a small, homogeneous country. People like Richard Barrett ( www.valuescentre.com ) have been developing and helping senior leaders and teams implement values-driven leadership in the west, based on the 7 levels of consciousness and the 7 stages of psychological development. This work is transformative for organizations and we have had great success partnering in organizations to help the Senior leadership Team integrate their values in all they do and how they do it.Identifying & Implementing Your Core Values
The process I undertake with both individuals and teams helps them identify their core values, and develop a foundation based on which they conduct all interactions, decisions, and meetings. As a result participants rediscover what really matters and align all behaviours, learn how to communicate, make agreements, ask for help, cascade the practices down through the organization, and support one another in accordance with their foundational values.