Chapter 4--Values and Beliefs
1. Beliefs and Values Defined
Peopledevelop their values and beliefs in childhood and nurture them over years of personal experience. They empower and motivate people, and are enduring. Values matter because they help people understand their experiences. Those experiences provide a start point for what to do in everyday situations.
Values and beliefs include culture, religious backgrounds, political beliefs, and traditions. Diverse religious and philosophical traditions will continue to shape different moral beliefs. Beliefs are convictions people hold as true. They are deep-seated and shape a person’s behavior and are central to character. Personal values and beliefs extend beyond the organization.
One definition is that values help people discern right from wrong. I do not find this definition useful since it requires a judgment on what is right from wrong. People cannot agree on what is right or wrong. For example, some groups and right would consider a strong belief in evolution wrong but it
would be considered right by others.
Another article that I read suggested that people should decide on an objective and then select values to help meet that objective. I believe that our core values are so strong that they influence what objectives we select. I further believe that our values and beliefs direct our actions and lives whether we are making decisions or not. Life is about living day-to-day. That does not mean that we cannot change our values. Values and beliefs do change over time, but it is usually a slow process. Some values never change.
Writing about values is difficult. During my research, one web site I discovered listed over 400 values. I do not see how that is useful. I am also suspicious of surveys that ask thousands of people to identify the values they admire in their leaders. I am sure that if you ask those same leaders to
list their values, you will find a completely different list. For example, subordinates may say they admire a leader who has a high sense of duty. That same leader may list his faith and family as his core values.
I am also skeptical of surveying leaders for their values. Ben Franklin once wrote that people want to appear reasonable, and I think that is true. When you ask a leader what his/her values are, you will normally get reasonable and acceptable answers. If a leader has a high value on making money
(profit, financial security) or power or fame, that leader will probably not say so.
Values and beliefs, except for a few, are not iron clad. For example, a person may place a high value in honesty (integrity, ethics, etc.) but have a problem telling his children that there is no Santa Claus (Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc.) and that the dress his wife bought does make her look
fat. A strong Christian belief does not mean not voting for a Jewish politician.
When I read the Army Regulation on Leadership, I was immediately struck by the absence of some important core values. The Army’s list does not include family, faith, or friends (peers, fellow soldiers), and yet, I would think many excellent leaders in the military have these core values. I say that based on my own military experience. I do not know if the Army does not consider family and faith as important values, but it concerns me when I see the high suicide rate in the military.
Then why are values important? As a leader/manager, if you know a subordinate’s core values, you then know what motivates him/her. For example, if money or power is a core value, then financial reward or promotions are motivators. However, if family is a core value, then time off might be a better motivator than overtime. Effective leader/managers are careful not to require their associates to violate their values. How do leader/managers learn what an associate’s core values are? Leader/managers have to talk to their associates and get to know them.