There are some things that a leader cannot and should not negotiate. There are some things, some values, that must be written in stone and written clearly for all who come in contact with an organization to see. These are the non-negotiables
Culture: A leader must create and sustain a positive, empowering culture. Culture is non-negotiable. If someone or something threatens culture, the leader is obligated to take action. Allowing a positive empowering culture to be destroyed is to allow the organization to be radically changed for the worse.
Values: Values are what sustain an organization, especially through times of great change. Values are what persist, what provide a foundation. If one of the values is integrity, then allowing people to color outside the lines is a non-starter. The leader not only has to embody the values, she has to enforce them.
How people are treated: People who are treated well perform better than people who are treated poorly. People who are trusted are more trustworthy, and people who are expected to take initiative and be resourceful try to do those things. When people are treated like their workplace is something between a prison and daycare, you lose great people. Leaders set the tone and ensure people are treated right. You can’t attract and build new leaders otherwise.
Business models: This isn’t to say that business models can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t change. They can, will, and should over time. But only at the right time and for the right reasons. Allowing price reductions that inhibit your ability to produce results breaks the model. Selling products and services that don’t create the value your clients want, need, and expect from you changes the model, too. A leader cannot allow the model to be negotiated.
A leader needs a list of nonnegotiable, things that cannot be allowed to change because someone doesn’t like the culture, the values, the business model, or who doesn’t want to treat other people well.