Go Back
When leading in turbulent conditions, your personal values can be one of the greatest assets to guide you and others through volatility and uncertainty.

Enterprise values are extremely important in framing and shaping organization culture. When leading in turbulent conditions, however, it is personal values that can be one of the greatest assets to guide you and others through volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

Immediately following the automation failure incident on board Qantas QF72 in 2008, it wasn’t Qantas values that guided Captain Kevin Sullivan to forgo the expected announcement from the flight deck and instead choose to walk the whole length of the plane and back, speaking to passengers and crew, in a cabin with holes in the ceiling covered in bits of scalp and blood, and with people moaning and crying.

“I’m not going to hide on the flight deck. It’s confronting, but I know what I must do. They’ve been through hell. I must be seen. I must be strong. I must show compassion, and I need to give them an explanation of what happened, even though I don’t know what happened.”

Anchoring on personal values gives you three huge advantages when facing into high-pressure, time-dependent decisions.


1. Authenticity

The last thing you need when feeling pressured is to put up a façade or apply some artificial framework to make decisions.

You must show up as your authentic best self; it takes enough cognitive load to handle challenges without the added pressure of playing a role. You owe that to yourself and your people.

Leading through values, anchored deeply in your life experiences, will mean you can be straight with how and why you make decisions in times of adversity.

2. Awareness

Societal norms around environment, gender, sexuality, race and the like are being challenged, contested and changed almost daily. This can make it difficult to be open on the one hand, and yet clear on your ‘moral compass’ on the other.

Anchoring on values and principles will help you to be more aware of your own beliefs and cultural conditioning in this complex and evolving context, and to be more understanding of others in your team and enterprise.

3. Adaptability

Clarity of values and principles will help you (and potentially your team) to avoid being bound by rules and bureaucratic process unsuited for fluid environments. Personal and organizational values and the associated principles enhance adaptability by providing a framework for effective decision-making and setting the tone of conversations about purpose and priorities, which are powerful tools to align teams and whole enterprises.

Former Group CEO of Asahi Beverages Oceania Region Robert Iervasi shares a strong framework anchored on values, principles and purpose:

“It gives you clarity on why the organization exists, which is to protect our people and the community and serve the needs of your customers and consumers, and nothing else. It quickly enables you to decide what activity could be stopped and eliminated for a period of time, and ensure all of the hierarchies are across it and endorse it.”

Anchor on Personal Values

Personal values are the foundation on which to make tough decisions and choices. Below is a simple, but powerful, process to help you Identify your core values, then decide if you want to share them with your team.

1. Allocate up to two hours in a relaxing or inspiring place.

2. Follow the guide points below, which take you through these steps:

  • Step 1. Commit to the process
  • Step 2. Reflect and explore
  • Step 3. Record insights
  • Step 4. Choose to share
  • Step 5. Apply your values anchor

3. If you decide to share them with your team, then prepare your stories and lean into the experience.


Guide Points

Follow these steps to guide you through the process of discovering and affirming your anchor values.

Step 1. Commit to the process

Reflect on your deepest, strongest personal values. The values that when all clarity and certainty are stripped away, you can turn to and use to guide the decisions you make for yourself, your team and the whole community relying on your leadership. Take as much time as you need.

Step 2. Reflect and explore

Think back through your early years. Speak to those closest to you and when you’re ready, come back with the two or three values you are ready to anchor on no matter what happens.

Step 3. Record insights

Write a sentence or set of points about each core value to capture its essence and how you apply it to make difficult decisions and choices. Complete a values frame.

Step 4. Choose to share

When you’ve found those values, it’s time to decide if you want to sit with your team and tell your story. Help them to understand what these values mean to you at an emotional level. Be vulnerable. Make sure they know that these are your true north.

Step 5. Apply your values anchor

Use your values to guide your decision making in difficult situations.


Values in Action

By defining your anchor values, you create one of the most important foundations for navigating turbulence because, irrespective of the challenges, you have a tool to help guide your thinking and action.

For Captain Sullivan, the personal cost of experiencing QF72 has been immense. It is heart-warming to hear his response when asked how he reflects on the decisions he made to lead when on the ground in Learmonth. “I’m very proud of what I did.”

And for the 315 passengers and crew, it was his personal values in action for which they will be forever grateful.


This an edited extract from Toolkit For Turbulence: The Mindset and Methods that Leaders Need to Turn Adversity to Advantage by Graham Winter and Martin Bean.

Graham Winter

Contributor Collective Member

Graham Winter, co-author of ‘Toolkit for Turbulence’, is the bestselling author of ‘Think One Team’, Founder of consultancy Think One Team and a three-time Australian Olympic team chief psychologist. For more information visit https://www.thinkoneteam.com/

Back to top