The Importance Of Values In Leadership

A conceptual look at leadership and associated concepts.

Dr. Purushothaman
December 13, 2013

Is there a set of values that separates great leaders from mediocre ones?

Can your values determine if you'll be a leader or a follower?

The answer to both questions is yes. In fact, there's no point in discussing leadership without a close examination of values.

But what are values and how do we know what ours are? Your values are your passions; they motivate you and influence your attitude about important issues. Values determine what you want most in life - what you must have to be fulfilled.

Thomas Leonard, founder of CoachU and Coachville, said, "When you're feeling satisfied, your needs are being met. When you're feeling fulfilled, your values are being met." If this is true, it behooves us to know what our values are and align our lives around them.

In 1928, psychologist Eduard Spranger identified six values or worldviews we all have in varying degrees. They are:

Theoretical – a passion for knowledge
Aesthetic – a passion for beauty, balance, and harmony
Utilitarian – a passion for money and what is useful
Social – a passion for service
Individualistic – a passion for power
Traditional – a passion for order and higher meaning

Your top three values are your passions and go a long way toward explaining your desire to be a leader or not.
Think of five people you feel are - or were - great leaders. Chances are their values profile would look like this:

3.Theoretical or Social

People with a high Utilitarian value have a passion for getting results. They are driven to make money and get a return on investment of their time, talent, and resources.

A secondary Individualistic value indicates a desire for power. These people want to control their own destiny and the destinies of others. They are driven to succeed.

This indicates a passion for knowledge - knowledge for the sake of knowledge. These people usually have above-average intelligence and crave learning.

If the Social value is their third highest, these leaders a driven to help others. They have an altruistic attitude and will use their money and power to serve.

Target Training, International of Scottsdale, Arizona, developed the values assessment based on Spranger's work that I use with my clients. Almost without exception, the successful business people I've assessed have these values clusters. They are born leaders. This correlates with research done on leadership and values.

Generally, those with the Utilitarian, Individualistic, and Theoretical values as their top three are more successful as business leaders. Those with the Aesthetic, Social, and Traditional values as their highest are generally more successful in charitable, spiritual, artistic, or environmental endeavors.
Research shows top managers and salespeople also have the Utilitarian-Individualistic-Theoretical values cluster.


Leaders' behavioral styles (DISC) determine HOW they will lead – their leadership style. Their values determine WHY they want to be leaders and what their leadership focus will be.

Virginia Tech psychology professor, Dr. E. Scott Geller suggests companies will be more successful if management actively develops leadership qualities in all of their employees. Those with the "leadership" values will be easiest to train.

Knowing your values will help you more than anything else in choosing a career or life path that will fulfill you. They will also show your manager or prospective employer the kind of leadership the company can expect from you.

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