3 Vital Elements to Values-Based Leadership

When the Good Arthur was reinstated as the much beloved leader of Market Basket, it closed the story to a modern day Greek battle. Central to this epic tale was the role values played in shaping a triumphant outcome for employees, customers, and the store’s suppliers.

Before mining this tale for wisdom, let’s back into this Greek story. First thing to know is Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted by his scheming cousin Arthur S. Demoulas. Arthur S. had convinced the Board of the east coast market chain to get rid of Arthur T. The reason? Well more money, of course. But in a dramatic fashion, employees, suppliers and customers revolted against the actions of the Evil Arthur. The revolution cost Market Basket millions of dollars a day, certainly a misfortune for the embattled supermarket.

The central theme to the Market Basket story is this: it’s not just what a leader achieves that matters; the journey counts just as much. And like the events outlined above, the journey ultimately revealed the victors in this Greek story: employees, customers and suppliers. It wasn’t greed that won the day. The actions of a values-based leader established bonds that couldn’t be broken by corporate trickery. It’s here that we pivot from story to lesson.

The way Arthur T related to his employees endeared him to them. Underneath his actions is a set of values that guide this beloved leader to not only achieve great outcomes, but it’s how he goes about that matters. Furthermore, his human-centered philosophy of leadership helps him create powerful connections with others that inspire them to jeopardize their livelihood.

We can learn much about the role values play in leadership from Arthur T. Let’s look at three elements—outcome, how you get there, and human-centered leadership—to learn how values-based leadership can transform the way you show up for your people.


In his research on values, Milton Rokeach, explains that we all have terminal values. Such values represent the ultimate outcomes we want to achieve, for example, equality, happiness, or wisdom. These values shape our beliefs and our behaviors. In short, they inform how we show up. Clearly the values Arthur T holds are aspirational and selfless, otherwise employees would not have given up paychecks to get their revered boss back.

How You Get There

Rokeach also identified values that guide us to get to the outcome. He called these instrumental values. Examples of instrumental values include logical, courageous or self-controlled.

We need to pay as much attention how we achieve success as we do the outcome we want. Juxtaposed against the Good Arthur, the evil one relied on a set of values that ultimately worked against his running the company. Does this always work out so favorably? No. But it feels good knowing that good guys still win.


Our leadership is shaped by our terminal and instrumental values. A human-centered leadership philosophy places significant importance on connectedness and integrity in relationships. It redefines the priority of people’s needs, placing them first above self-interest. Human-centered leadership and values-based leadership allow people to thrive. And as our friends at Luck Companies™ say, values-based leadership ignites human potential. And this is a key outcome that human-centered leaders must achieve to remain relevant in today’s business world.

Values-based leadership and human-centered leadership are fraternal twins. They don’t look alike, but are connected by an unbreakable bond. They feed off one another and support the other. Together they support your efforts to create wins like Arthur T—the Good Arthur.

What the story of Market Basket teaches us is values-based leaders create a context for employees to thrive. And in turn the relationship between leader and team member deepens. The unexpected can happen. Possibilities open up. Optimism emerges. These are necessities for any size business today. Values-based leadership helps guide the way.

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of ExchangeGain. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

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