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As noted, values are standards that are learned and internalized from the various institutions of society, not just from work cultures. An individual’s values change not only as a result of changes in self-concept and with increasing self-awareness but also as his or her environmental context changes. This change is sometimes externally motivated but often is motivated by a need for self-actualization. People change their values when they feel dissatisfaction with their current values as they are applied in their several social contacts.

No one, including inner leaders rises, like Venus, with a full-blown values system that lasts a lifetime. Each individual naturally undergoes continual change as the result of everyday living. Traditional theory suggests that our value programming is relatively rapid in the early years of our maturation but slows until, by our majority, it is set and changes slowly thereafter. Many suggest that setting our values and changing them over time is an intensely personal undertaking, one not normally usurped by corporate leaders. Indeed, except for parents, the clergy, and maybe a few other intimate associates, those with whom one has relationships, many believe, should not be party to values changes—certainly not people in one’s work community. Inner leadership— and simple observation of real life—suggests that this perception of values change is faulty to the extent of being pointless.

Setting and Changing Values

Contemporary research is concluding that pressure to shape an individual’s values set comes from many sources—parents, ministers, teachers, leaders, friends, colleagues, leaders, and significant life events. It also affirms that many people share many of the same values and that these values can be known and altered both by individuals and by people external to them. Rokeach (1979) suggests that our list of desired terminal values is formed out of the ideas we come into contact with and the larger-scoped beliefs we come to accept. That is, the profession we select, the level of religiousness we adopt, our ethnicity and the ideology we subscribe to dictate in large part the end-state values we honor and toward which we seek to gauge our life.

The power of values lies in the scope of their impact on individuals’ attitudes and behavior. Values thus become operational standards that are important not as abstract ideals but in their use as guides to what individuals think about, how they think about it, and how they behave toward others.

Individuals select unique sets of values among alternatives after considering the probable effects of the alternatives on their lives. Therefore, one can say a particular value is “owned” when the individual acts consistently in terms of it and publicly acknowledges it.

For something to be a value for someone, it must fulfill the following criteria:

  • It must be chosen freely from alternatives.

  • The effects of the various alternative values must be considered.

  • It must be acted upon by the person.

  • It must be acted upon repeatedly.

  • It must help the person achieve his or her potential.

  • It must be publicly affirmed by the person.

Unless a value meets all six of these criteria, it is a partial value, a value being formed by a person.

Inner leaders use this values-setting process in setting the work community’s guiding values. In essence, it is a task of choosing, acting, and prizing.

Choosing is consciously considering and deliberately and freely choosing a value over other possible values, the consequences of each being known. A value becomes set when the individual acts consistently on the basis of it. Initially the action may be tentative and sporadic, but with experiences it becomes the trigger of repeated behavior. Finally individuals must “prize” the value as an effective source of support for their goals of self-development and maturation and share and affirm it publicly.

The Process of Values Change

The need for inner leaders to understand how values are changed and the mechanisms they can use is critical to their success. As noted, the process consists of six parts. Knowing this process, inner leaders can abandon the traditional policy of hands off and begin to shape their work community’s values in the same way teachers, priests, parents, managers, and friends— even strangers—have been doing for generations. There are six ideal phases of values change.

  1. Choosing the value. Except in rare circumstances, the ideal way to choose a value is by voluntary selecting it. That is, the choice is ideally freely made after thinking about alternatives and considering their consequences. Inner leaders create opportunities for their followers to choose values they want them to select by couching them in ways that attract the followers.

  2. Acting upon the value. Since people select their values after having experimented with them by acting in terms of new values in isolated situations, inner leaders provide work opportunities to let followers exercise the new value in ways that lead to success.

  3. Esteeming. People adopt a new value if they see it as something to esteem, prize, appreciate, or cherish. For followers to esteem a value, inner leaders must find ways to let followers see that the new value helps them achieve their potential.

  4. Publicly affirming. Part of inculcating a new value into other people’s value sets includes getting them to publicly accept the value as theirs and to attest to its utility for them. Inner leaders take steps to insure that all work-community members know the new value. They build discussions about work-community values into as many contacts with followers as possible and also let followers defend and support the emerging values set.

  5. Acting in isolated situations. A new value becomes a guiding standard as the leader, or the individual himself or herself, builds involvement in work activities that prioritizes the new value at times and in ways that maximize the potential for followers to have a success experience.

  6. Acting according to a routine pattern. As experience in using the new value as a guide builds, inner leaders act to incorporate it into all appropriate work-unit actions.

Values Displacement

The sense of values theory is that an individual’s values are set fairly early in life and change slowly over a long time. This stable-state nature of human values is disturbed, except for incremental alteration, only by experiencing a significant emotional event. Such an event may be either a positive or negative crisis or a personal catharsis, a kind of epiphany. In fact, any major life event can trigger values change—marriage, divorce, having a child, winning or losing a job, or even reading a book, having a new idea, meeting a personal hero, or some other personally impactful event. And followers sometimes change their values merely by the acquisition of new knowledge. Indeed, the mechanisms for change are multiple.

From the point of view of leading from the middle of the corporation, before there can be purposeful participation, coworkers must share certain values and pictures about where they are trying to go (Senge, 1990). Creating shared-values workplaces is a task of nurturing some values among followers and downplaying others. One’s central standard of right conduct comes from core, often spiritual values (Bjerke, 1999). People form these values in the family, in religion, in school, and in other social interaction. More and more work communities are surfacing leaders who lead from this kind of spiritual values orientation rather than management by objectives, TQM, or some other participatory model. Actually, all these leadership fads, and all the others, find their utility in some kind of sharing of values among group members. Inner leaders lead through shared values. They ensure that, insofar as possible, all coworkers accept the work community’s values, goals, and methods. They articulate values that followers also hold, or they help followers shape their values system so they come to desire the leader’s values.

Inner leadership, therefore, becomes a task of values displacement (Bjerke, 1999). A values leader displaces unwanted—even if morally okay—values held by the work community or its individual members and replaces them with values the leader honors—values he or she thinks will enhance his or her personal success or that of the work community.

Values and related changes in attitudes and behavior can come about in two ways. They change as a result of changes in the individual’s self-conception (self-definition). One’s values change also because of increased self-awareness of incongruencies, inconsistencies, contradictions, even hypocrisies, between self conceptions and self-ideals, on the one hand, and on the other, their present values-related attitudes and behavior.

The general order of the creation of our individual values set is from pre-moral to conventional conformity to self-accepted values. That is, we move from a value neutral state to conventional community values to a unique and individually set code of values. As noted, the process need not be necessarily slow. Rokeach’s (1979) research suggests that it can happen in as little as forty minutes. All that is necessary for someone’s values to change is an inner need to make his or her self-concept match his or her desired behavior.

Values-based behavior modification has implications for many human social issues—alcoholism, drug abuse, obesity, and a range of achievement related tension disorders like unsafe driving or physical inactivity. It has special interest to inner leaders for it is the basis of the leader–follower dynamic, and while key to the conduct of leadership, it has not been discussed until very recently. Research in values change theory suggests that inner leaders can change follower values in a variety of ways such as the following:

  1. Creation of a new standard of belief—publication of a code of values.

  2. Abrupt destruction of previously held orientations—hiring a new boss.

  3. Attenuation or slow withdrawal of effort and commitments—boredom with the status quo.

  4. Extension of values held into new situations or spheres of influence—cross-training.

  5. Elaboration of held values via progressive rationalization into a new area—training.

  6. Specification of more explicit context in which a value is considered applicable— training.

  7. Limitation of the use of the value via confrontation with other opposing values— controlling the environment.

  8. Explication of an implicit value—persuasion.

  9. Constancy, or greater systematic application of a value in many circumstances— adapting new policies and procedures.

  10. Intensifying or changing a value from one among many to the center of our life— forcing focus, paying attention to one part of the work.

Long-term values change can be induced by machines, as well as by human experimenters. Such is the power of the mass media in the form of music, television, and the Internet that leaders may and do employ them to bring about value change.

Determining Which Values to Use

Rushworth Kidder (1993) identified several values he says are held in common by people regardless of culture or nationality. According to Kidder’s research, knowing these universal values “gives leaders a foundation for building goals, plans, and tactics, so that things really happen and the world really changes. Using these values in their relationships with others unifies the work community, giving it a home territory of consensus and agreement.

Knowledge of some universal values gives inner leaders another way to reply when asked, Whose values will you teach? Answering this question, as we plunge into the twenty-first century with the twentieth’s sense of ethics, may be one of the most valuable mental activities of our time.

Kidder’s “universal” values include:









He also implies others such as courage, wisdom, hospitality, peace, and stability.

Some of these universal values seem to be self-evident. They are reflected in the everyday experience of people of good will the world over. People in American society and in most other societies in the world commonly include them in lists of core values. They may form at least a skeleton guide inner leaders use to help create their work community’s values in a growingly diverse, complex, and differentiated work world. Based on these few universal values, inner leaders construct a values foundation that appeals to the soul of many. For example:

  • Nobody considers it moral to abuse children.

  • Nobody considers it moral to rape.

  • Nobody considers it moral to steal.

  • Nobody considers it moral to commit murder.

  • Nobody considers it moral to discriminate.

  • Nobody considers it moral to be disrespectful.

  • Nobody considers it moral to lie.

  • Nobody considers it moral to be dishonest.

On the other hand, people think it is right and proper to

  • care for and love family and friends.

  • treat all people fairly.

  • respect the right of all to free moral choice.

  • be bone honest in our dealing with others.

  • conduct our lives so others will see us as worthy.

As inner leaders enforce these standards by both edict and expectations they help assure that followers will positively respond.

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