Quality Leadership – Applying the Virtues Project
Nigel Ipp (Nadi) – Master Facilitator VP
A few years ago I was sitting in Unity Circle with a group of grade 1-3’s. We had been sitting in silence with our hands placed in the middle of each other’s backs, looking around the group for eye contact to send friendliness, kindness and love to each other. The virtue of Unity was tangible, so I decided to respond to some of the playground challenges. It was the usual, bossy children making life hard for those left out of the games. I asked them directly, “Who knows what the difference is between a boss and a leader?” One of them said with confidence – “Leaders are includers. They don’t boss everyone around”. I responded with a big “YES” the kind of ‘yes’ that stokes the fire of confidence and self esteem. Then I said something which surprised all of them, they stopped with eyes wide open in that peculiar awareness reflecting they were digesting an idea, and then they smiled. I said “Everyone from the age of about 3 is a leader. From the moment we are born we are looking out into the world and learning about ourselves and the world by watching others. You are 7 years old and when you are with your little brother or sister or cousin, you have the choice to be a good leader with friendliness, fairness and creativity. Or you can be their boss and control them with your ideas and your rules. Good leaders are respected, trusted and even loved. It’s up to you to make the wise choice.”
There is a book by Robert Fulghum called, “All I really need to know I learned in Kidnergarten” and there is a vast depth of truth in that statement, for it is not only possible, but necessary to offer this kind of understanding, support and practise at a young age. The building blocks of real leadership are laid in the early years of a child’s life. Of course there are natural born leaders, yet most of them need guidance and mentoring for this potential to shine.
We are all familiar with strong people who have many ideas and strong charismatic personalities. All too often these ‘strong’ people base their approach on power structures which have arbitrary and ego driven motives which either allow others to be part of the in-group or exclude people resulting in feelings of self doubt, insecurity and even fear. Sometimes this approach is rationalised and justified by the ‘power brokers’ who claim that, ‘it keeps everybody on their toes’. This is a ‘boss’ mentality. It is necessary to distinguish this ‘boss’ mentality of control from ‘quality leadership’.
So what does ‘Quality Leadership’ achieve? Quality Leadership creates an environment in which everyone’s strengths are appreciated. At the same time, people are supported to respond to their challenges, in their own time of readiness. When this is ongoing, through seasons, a spiral effect is created. Each cycle is a feedback which can nurture a stable human environment, by weaving high trust into it. This happens because a strong and effective leader has built credibility with the group because they are in essence – ‘includers’. This kind of leader is an excellent listener and works with the teams ideas and strengths. They seek opportunities for others to contribute and participate. They coordinate, they cooperate, they lead and they bring the best out of their team. Their credibility is because they are competent, empathetic, have integrity, and their record and agenda is know to support the vision and mission. When you enter their environment the atmosphere is filled with confidence, empowered members and effective people who enjoy being there because of the leadership which acknowledges, supports and brings out the best in everyone.
Stephen MR Covey in his book, The Speed of Trust writes:
A 2002 study by Watson Wyatt shows that total return to shareholders in high trust organizations is almost three times higher than the return in low trust organizations. That’s a difference of nearly 300%! An education study by Stanford Professor Tony Bryk reports that schools with high trust have more than a three times higher chance of improving test scores than schools with low trust.
The SPEED of Trust challenges the age-old assumption that trust is merely a soft, social virtue and instead demonstrates that trust is a hard-edged, economic driver—a learnable and measurable skill that makes organizations more profitable, people more promotable, and relationships more energizing.
Trust is a powerful accelerator to performance and when trust goes up, speed also goes up while cost comes down — producing what CoveyLink calls a Trust Dividend.™
‘A high trust environment’ is where everyone has an opportunity to contribute and feel appreciated for what they offer. They are supported to develop their potential through character and competency strengths, but also guided to respond to challenges.
The 5 Strategies of the Virtues Projects™ are ideal practises which successfully facilitate Quality Leadership based on Virtues – Character Strengths and Challenges across most sectors of society. The Virtues Project™ was founded in Canada in 1991 by Linda Kavelin Popov, Dan Popov, and John Kavelin. It is used in many countries and accepted by various government education ministries to support character, values, leadership and effective teams. The VP have developed a series of materials including a Family Guides, Educator’s Guide, sets of Virtue Cards and posters. Their interest in the common virtues and values that form a bridge between cultural and ethnic boundaries, has resulted in a non-sectarian programme that acknowledges the elements of character honoured by all cultures. The Five Strategies are a framework calling people to live by their highest values. They empower people to understand and reframe their thinking to further develop integrity and environments which support respectful, creative and honest relationships.
The Virtues Project™ can be applied in a variety of settings by restoring, creating and empowering with Values that develop:-
• community culture
• kind and peaceful schools
• family values
• ethical leadership
• team commitment, purposefulness and unity
• self esteem and meaning
The VP™ has been
• honoured by the UN as a model for families
• supported by education ministries like Australia, New Zealand and Figi
• used in Prisons in Figi
• endorsed by the Dalai Lama
and Oprah Winfrey had this to say:
“Parents are always saying children don’t come with a guidebook. This is one.”
Below are the The Five Strategies with a sample of virtues that are applied:
1) Speak the language of virtues – tact, consideration and assertiveness
2) Teachable Moments – cooperation, respect and gentleness
3) Develop Clear Boundaries – determination, responsibility and flexibility
4) The Art of Companioning – kindness, patience and trust
5) Honour the Spirit – reverence, peacefulness and honour