weLEAD Leadership Series – Exclusive Interview with Mick Yates

7.1 min read

Greg L.Thomas

Mick Yates is an innovative leadership researcher, teacher and author. With an extensive background in corporate management, Mick passionately advocates Innovation and Value Systems with a particular expertise in Asian culture. He has lived in Asia, Western Europe and the United States. This experience has given Mick a unique comprehension of both Western and Asian cultures. He is the founder of Leader Values-https://www.leader-values.com, a prominent web site that promotes the value synthesis of West and East. In 2001, Mick was elected to Save the Children’s US Board of Trustees.

Your web site https://www.leader-values.com/ is considered one of the most extensive sites on the subject of leadership and values to be found on the web. It is typically rated high on many search engines. How long has it been posted and what inspired you to create Leader-values?

Leader-values was first posted in 1996, although only really got going late 1997 and morphed into its current form in 1999. I try to update it fairly regularly.

The original inspiration was to try to share some of my own learning about Leadership of Multinational and Multicultural organizations, and also create a venue for the sharing of ideas from others. At that time there was little on the ‘net except “consultants” sites selling their services, and there was almost nothing on the “east meets west” aspects of Leadership which I believe both critical and most illuminating.

It has grown a lot since then, especially in attracting many high quality guest writers, although it still remains a non-profit, “one man band” site.

Your site has a heavy emphasis on the importance of “values” in the field of leadership. How do you define these values?

Studying cultures from around the world, Geert Hofstede demonstrated that there are differences, yet many similarities in the hierarchy of values. These build from a common cultural background (i.e. community of birth and education), through narrower peer group structures (e.g. corporations, clubs etc.), and leading upwards to individually specific (i.e. personal) value systems.

People find value in many places – in work, in religion, in sports, in relationships, in public service, in achievement, in travel. But people can only find their own values in one place – inside themselves. Values are with us all, every minute, and our values are apparent to others, every minute.

I have personally been inspired most by the writing of John Gardner on Leadership, and he brings a strong “values” perspective to his work. I’d be happy to talk more about this.

Yes, please do expand on this. Of course John Gardner is a highly respected leadership thinker and consultant who has served a number of American presidents and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civil honor in the United States.

John Gardner wrote a series of papers “On Leadership” which later became a book. In it he stresses the importance of values in the Leadership role, and defines the purpose of Leadership in ethical terms. That seems to me the way he lived, too. He notes that Leaders can still have a “bad” ethical system, but that congruence between a Leader’s and Follower’s values is essential if the two are to go forward together. He stressed the value of teaching, the critical importance of building trust, and the importance of affirming values in the organization as a whole. Gardner also spent some time explaining the role of Leaders as “symbols”. All of these ideas are pivotal, in my view, and have never been better stated.

Why are these values important for leaders?

Values are at the centre of all Leadership activities. On Leader-values, there are two quotes which may help illustrate what I mean.


“Leadership comes from within us, in the sense that deeply held values and principles provide the road map for the way we lead, and the way other people respond. Whether the Leader is a person of impeccable moral fiber, or quite disreputable, it is always their personal value system that sustains them in their quest”.

Every individual’s value system is slightly different from everyone else’s. Understanding one’s own system, as well as seeing how it fits with the systems of others around us, seems to be a pre-requisite for getting an organization to pull together.


“One of the first jobs of a Leader is to figure out what succeeding means (including the role of the followers). He or she must then lead agreement amongst the potential followers and constituencies to be able to act, and thus to succeed. On the negative side, without a clear sense of his or her own personal values, the Leader could get hopelessly lost, falling foul of inconsistency and insincerity as he struggles to handle the constituents”.

Are there certain values you believe are universal and cross all multicultural and transnational boundaries?

Today business has several main constituencies in every corner of the world: customers, employees, shareholders and society at large, and a fifth, if one includes the immediate Family of the employees. Each of these constituencies has its own values, beliefs and needs – they may be rooted in a similar political, religious or ethnic value system, but each will have its own variations of values. Nevertheless, it is my contention that we all have more in common with each other than we have different, and it is the Leader’s job to find this common ground.

As to specific common values – try “macro level” issues like “having a peaceful and prosperous community”, and “micro level” personal issues like “the ability to give my children the education they need”. In other words, common ground is everywhere, and globalization is a positive force.

What do you see as the biggest challenge that leaders face today in the western world and why does it exist?

Successfully integrating the pieces of the jig saw puzzle – constituencies, “east and west”, profit and society, local and global etc. etc. Put another way, “Managing Complexity” via “facilitating the work of others” seems to be critical.

On a political note, what do your think is the biggest role the western world can play to help the struggling nation and people of Afghanistan?

First, take time to understand the Afghan people, their religion, culture and their needs. Make no assumptions, but draw up a comprehensive post-Taliban plan. Second, make available humanitarian aid as quickly as possible, with no strings attached. Focus on the women and children. Third, provide effective security (via an international peace keeping arrangement) whilst the people progress towards self-determination. “Trust but verify”, especially given the terrible human rights records of many of the parties involved on both sides. The Cambodian model (UNTAC – early 1990’s) which provided for the first free elections post the Vietnamese withdrawal could be a good model. Fourth, provide mechanisms to get Afghanistan quickly back into the family of nations – trade deals, political groupings etc. Expect no quid pro quo. Fifth, stick with it – this is not just a “cause of the day”, over when bin Laden is brought to Justice. It concerns 25+ million people who have had decades of war – again, like Cambodia in many ways.

Thank You Mick!

Comments to: editor@leadingtoday.org

About the author:

Mick was Company Group Chairman of Johnson & Johnson’s Consumer business in Asia-Pacific from 1996 to 2001. He led innovative strategic and organizational changes in Marketing, Human Resources, IT, and Manufacturing that capitalized on the Asian “crisis”. Mick was also responsible for one of J&J’s Worldwide Franchises, and was a member of the Global Operating Committee.

Prior to this, Mick was Regional Vice President for Procter & Gamble, based in Hong Kong and Japan. He has spent 11 years in Asia, having also lived and worked across most of Western Europe and the United States. Mick has just left J&J to pursue his own business interests, and is now based in the UK.

Mick researches, writes and teaches on Leadership, Innovation and Value Systems. He runs a website featuring a Western/Asian synthesis (https://www.leader-values.com). Most recently he chaired the session on “Corporate Social Responsibility” at the Pacific Rim Forum in Sydney. He was also a speaker at the APEC CEO’s meeting on “Globalization” in Brunei.

Reflecting a long-term interest in children’s issues, the Yates family supports a Cambodian school development program, in a remote “reconciliation area” of the Country. Details are athttps://www.yatesweb.com/Cambodia/Cambodia.htm.

  • Quote of the Day

    “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”

    — Kenneth Blanchard