A Powerful Story of Values-Driven Leadership

George Russell, whose grandfather founded Russell Investments (now a part of Northwestern Mutual), a global investment company with $140 billion in assets under management, has always been guided a core set of values that drives daily decisions. In Success by Ten, a book Russell co-authored, he discusses the top ten values he embraces, the most important one being “non-negotiable integrity.”

In a blog by Russell’s co-author, Michael Sheldon describes Russell’s use of storytelling as a means of driving home this higheset value, in particular, to employees. Russell demonstrates his commitment to integrity by telling employees that an employee who makes an honest mistake will be corrected and forgiven; but an employee who intentionally operates with a lack of integrity will be fired on the spot.

Explaining that you have to demonstrate what you believe, not simply talk about it, Russell early on in his career with the company followed through with his warning and fired an employee as soon as the person was discovered to have been unethical. He then told the story about the incident to ensure everyone in the organization knew that he meant what he said. He only needed to tell the story a couple of times, Russell says, because “word gets around, and people understand what’s expected of them.”

Top leaders know that stories work! Are you underscoring your values by demonstrating what you want–and consistently telling about it?

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