In 2005, a student hacked into the website that many business schools use to manage student applications. He then published detailed hacking instructions on the internet. Many applicants exploited this to gain access to the website and check their admission status.
While many business school deans expressed their displeasure with the hacking and promised further investigations, then-Harvard Business School Dean Kim Clark announced that all applicants who hacked the website would be rejected.
While these applicants were welcome to reapply the following year, Clark said that admissions officials would take the hacking incident into account when reviewing the applications.
One of Harvard’s core values is honesty and integrity in all dealings. In a statement issued by Harvard, Clark stated, “Our mission is to educate principled leaders who make a difference in the world. To do so, a person must possess a wide range of abilities and qualities, including the highest levels of integrity, sound judgement, and a strong moral compass—an intuitive sense of what is right and wrong. Those who hacked into this website did not pass that test. “
Clark was criticised in the media for being too critical. Clark, on the other hand, never questioned himself.
Being clear about what you believe at your core—the guiding beliefs and values that are most important to you—can be extremely beneficial in a crisis.
Organisational leaders need to have congruence between their personal values and the values of the company they lead. A lack of alignment results in decisions, communication, and behaviour that cause problems both inside and outside of the organisation.
When leaders draw on their core values and the values of the organisation for guidance, they set a strong example for everyone inside the organisation, as well as anyone who interacts with the business both inside and outside the organisation.
Values-based leadership sets up the standard by which people should operate and instils a set of shared values in employees, improving their ability to work as a team.
The story of the Harvard Dean rejecting applicants who hacked into the website sets the tone for both employees and students at the institution.
Is there a story where the company’s core values guided you to action?
Sharing them with your team is an excellent way of introducing and instilling core values. It would also be a great idea to include some of these stories in new hire onboarding and training activities.
To know more about how you as a leader benefit from using storytelling to communicate and shape workplace culture (instill values too), check here.
About The Author
Vinod Krishna is a brand storytelling trainer and consultant at DustyPaths.
He brings 3 decades of experience in leading people, projects, and businesses
to forge new paths in storytelling, communication and leadership development.
He is an avid barefoot runner, trekker, theater artist, and photographer.
Connect with him on LinkedIn