By Tisha Swart-Entwistle, Combined Arms Center Public Affairs OfficeApril 24, 2019
The second quarterly Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Academy Professional Forum of 2019 featured Dr. Mary Gentile and her approach to values-driven leadership development 'Giving Voice to Values.'
"I became frustrated with the way we talked about values in leadership, I didn't think it was the most effective way to approach it," Gentile said during the forum April 18 in the Lewis and Clark Center's Marshall Auditorium. "So, in the early 2000s I created the approach I am going to talk about today."
Gentile spent ten years at Harvard business school, one of her primary roles there was helping to design and teach in the school's first required curriculum around ethics and values in leadership. When she left Harvard, she began consulting to other business schools, companies and organizations around the world on that same subject. That is when she had what she describes as a crisis of faith.
"What we were doing, we were treating it (ethical choices) as entirely cognitive and what I was seeing is that often people really know what the right thing to do is," Gentile said. "They just don't think it's feasible or they don't think it is possible in the context they are in or they think they will be punished or ostracized or it just will be futile and they fear retaliation."
Gentile said that what she observed, and found research to support, is that rehearsal, practice, pre-scripting and peer coaching are more effective strategies.
"I call it building a moral muscle memory," Gentile said. "I think it's very consistent with the military training model, with drills and before and after action kinds of conversations and creating that kind of readiness."
Even though the approach was developed from Gentile's experience in business school and with businesses, she thinks it is relevant in the world of SHARP.
"The methodology that we developed for Giving Voice to Values applies across basically any kind of values conflict," Gentile said.
Essentially, Gentile said the approach is about asking and answering a 'different' question when it comes to values driven leadership. The usual question, Gentile said, is 'what is the right thing to do?' in any particular situation.
"What Giving Voice to Values is about, is asking and answering the question 'once you know what you believe the right thing to do is… how do you get it done? How do you act on it in a context where it's often challenging, where there may be pushback, where there may be retaliation or where you just simply feel it will be futile," Gentile said. "Giving Voice to Values is less about what's right and more about how you get the right thing done."
In addition to being the creator/director of Giving Voice to Values, Gentile is Professor of Practice at University of Virginia Darden School of Business and Senior Advisor at Aspen Institute Business and Society Program. The quarterly forums are organized by the SHARP Academy and are open to the community. For more information about Giving Voice to Values visit givingvoicetovalues.org.