Blog & Insight

Values don't inherently drive right behaviour

"Live your values" "make your values real" can be heard often in organisations and on LinkedIn posts.

I don't disagree with the sentiment - because the sentiment assumes that acting with integrity and being authentic will ensure right doing rather than wrong doing.

I fear however that the assumption is wrong - and here's why I think that.

First we need to understand what values are.

Values drive every action whether good or bad, right or wrong.

Living our values is, therefore, what every person is doing every second of every day. We are already making our values real - it's an automatic unconscious action we're doing.

We may not always agree with the actions taken by others because the actions may be illegal, unethical or have catastrophic outcomes. A value, however, will have driven the decisions made. For example:

  • A desire for security might mean turning a blind eye to wrong doing 
  • A desire for success might mean someone taking the credit for another's work
  • A desire for recognition might mean treating a supplier disrespectfully
  • A desire for control might mean not listening to and ignoring others opinions
  • A desire for harmony might mean someone saying yes when they mean no

In other words values are actually inherently selfish because we personally will do what we can to have them met.

In the above examples the individuals are being true to themselves, being authentic - even if doing that means lying, manipulating and selfish behaviour! So they're being true to their values, and more importantly to their definition of what it means to get that value, but the results are wrong doing as perceived by others.

Next time you hear yourself say you want more integrity and more authenticity you might want to think about what you really mean.

I'd suggest when we talk about values we really mean ethical values. Ethical values that ensure we do the right not wrong thing - and that's a whole other blog about our ability, or otherwise, to impose conscious logical values to a process that is unconscious.

Blogs I've written to help explore values include:

Here's to more right doing. The first step in doing that for me is understanding our own values, the definition you have for them, the hierarchy of them and the potential conflicts that exist between the values that often lead to wrong doing.

If you'd like help to uncover your values, resolve any conflicts between them and understand how your values can be used to support you achieving your goals call me +44 (0)7770 538159 or email

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© Alison Smith
VAT Registration: 224 5001 58
Registered in Scotland, Registration Number: SC457105
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