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Leaders & Legends Speaker Series: Mary Gentile on ‘Giving Voice to Values’
Feb 8, 2021

Corporate executives, industry educators and even elite global enterprises alike often overlook a crucial decision-making process when faced against opposing pressures in ethical dilemmas. An innovative foundational approach, “Giving Voice to Values” (GVV) pioneered by Mary C. Gentile, Ph.D., helps fulfill this long-standing void in the development of values-based leadership in business, education, and our workspaces. 

The Satish & Yasmin Gupta College of Business will feature Gentile, of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, in a virtual fireside chat on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 6:15 p.m., moderated by Greg Bell, Ph.D., associate dean and professor of management. In preparation for her upcoming Leaders & Legends discussion, Gentile offered a brief interview (edited for length and clarity) about the importance of and need for values-based leadership in the workplace:

What makes the GVV approach different? 

I always tell people the core idea behind GVV is about asking and trying to answer a new question, a different question when it comes to values-driven leadership. What is the right thing to do, and how can you be most effective? How can you voice it? 

We like to focus on what are typically called ethical dilemmas, where it's really unclear what the right thing to do is. ... There are a lot of those kinds of challenges. But there are a lot of situations where it isn't really a dilemma, where they just didn't know how to enact it effectively. We know from research that people are more likely to do things they have rehearsed and practiced in the past, so we're really creating what I call a moral muscle memory. 

Why is the GVV approach so salient? 

There are a few different reasons. One reason is that it's intuitively believable ... people recognize when they've been in situations where they were uncomfortable, yet they were unable to act or unwilling to act or just didn't act. On the one hand, it resonates fairly universally. This is not about good people and bad people. ... This is about what I can say and do today, and getting you to see things in a way that is more appropriate. Another reason is the fact that it's based increasingly on research in a lot of disciplines ... psychology, certainly, but also neurosciences. 

How do we encourage further positive thinking? 

There's a kind of cognitive dissonance when you know something is right or wrong and yet you're not sure how to be effective. We clearly live in a time where these kinds of challenges are just on the table every day in our personal lives. Here we are dealing with COVID ... you may be in a situation where you feel at risk because someone else's unwilling to wear a mask, for example. So how can you have an impact? Then we're looking at it at a societal level, when there is so much tension and division around really not just economic issues, but life and death issues. How do we voice it in a way that enables us to stay connected to people who may not already agree with us, and actually have an impact to move as a society in a positive direction? I don't have perfect answers for all those questions, but I think that the direction I'm going to be sharing can be a useful one. 

Interested in learning more? RSVP before seats fill up.  

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By Callie Ewing, BA ’03 MH ’22 Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, canonized in 2015, were a French Roman Catholic couple and parents to five daughters, most notably St. Thérèse of Lisieux,...

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