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Herb Stevenson
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To Lead

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Core Values: An Assessment

Core Values

An ethical leader is a person who acts with integrity; that is knowing your core values and having the courage to act on them on behalf of the common good.
Values are the principles or standards of behavior that are formed by life experiences and codes of conduct, implicitly and explicitly, from our family, culture(s), organization(s), institution(s), religion(s), nation(s), etc..

Generally, we have two forms of values, personal and core. Personal values are lessons learned from life’s trials and tribulation. Core values are embedded during our initial upbringing and create the way a person orients to the world, or, if you prefer, the filter from which you not only make meaning but from which you decide how you will act and react to life’s daily challenges. Core values emanate from the center of who we are and what is most important to us as a human being. And, core values are often not spoken or acted upon creating a nagging within us about something we should not have allowed to happen or an injustice that we participated.

When our core values are clear to us, we have a greater sense of self and how we orient to the world. When we have not clearly identified these core values, we often have powerful and surprising responses to situations that directly or even indirectly conflict with these values.

Values Clarification

Values change over time in response to changing life experiences. Recognizing these changes and understanding how they affect one's actions and behaviors is the goal of the values clarification process. Values clarification will not tell you what your values should be, it simply provides the means to discover what your values are.

For the purpose of values clarification, Raths, Harmin and Simon identified seven criteria that must be met if a value is to be considered a full value. These criteria can be divided into three categories: choosing, prizing and acting. To be a full value, the value must be chosen freely from a list of alternatives, only after thoughtful consideration has been given to the consequences of each alternative. The value must be cherished and made known to other people. The value must also be translated into behaviors that are consistent with the chosen value and integrated into the life style.

Criteria for a Full or Core Value

Values clarification is based on the approach formulated by Louis Raths, who in turn built upon the thinking of John Dewey. Unlike other theoretical approaches to values, Raths is not concerned with the content of people's values, but the process of valuing. His focus is on how people come to hold certain beliefs and establish certain behavior patterns. Valuing, according to Raths, is composed of seven sub-processes10:

We often get confused between values and value indicators. Values often grow from our purposes and goals, aspirations, beliefs and convictions, interests, attitudes, feelings, activities, and/or worries, problems, and obstacles. Each of these are value indicators, but are not always values. More often, they are indicators of an underlying value. Unless all seven of the above traits are satisfied, it is not a value. Nonetheless, exploring these value indicators can help unravel the often confusing determination of real values. During the process, we are able to discover the various ways we have made meaning and in many cases, how we have attached some form of importance to them, thereby creating a value indicator.


Thus, the values-clarification approach does not aim to instill any particular set of values. Rather the goal of the values-clarification approach is to help individuals utilize the above seven processes of valuing in their own lives; to apply these valuing processes to already formed beliefs and behavior patterns and to those still emerging.


This exercise will help you clarify your core values. It is a challenging exercise, and it will be more meaningful if you take your time to allow the information to emerge from within you. It is suggested that you initially work on your own and in silence.

During the process you will highlight the values most important to you. To do that, you’ll form a general list of personal values. Within this list you will prioritize the values so as identify the most important ones, as well as reveal how often you practice what you value. The prioritizing process helps you identify your core values. Pay attention to your internal experience including your inner dialogue, physical processes in your body, and emotional reactions as you make choices. How you respond to this assessment will reveal interesting truths about yourself. Journal or make notes on this form as you go through the process.


1. Review the sample assessment on the next page, then review the values on the core values assessment pages. At the bottom of each page of the core value assessment, there are blank lines. Use these lines to add any values that are important to you, but are not listed.

2. Take some time to think about how important are these values. Make a mark on any that is important to you and draw a line through those that are not very important to you. Or using percentages (0-100%), rate the importance of each value.

3. If you have not done so because you have simply marked and crossed out values up to this point, insert a percentage of how important the remaining values are to you.(0-100%)

4. Listimate (guess-estimate) the percentage of your time that you actually practice each value. Consider times that you fudged your enforcement of this value. Notice any difference between the percentage of importance the percentage of the time that you actually practice the value.

Sample Core Value Assessment

Review the sample assessment below, then review the values on the core values assessment pages. At the bottom of each page of the core value assessment, there are blank lines. Use these lines to add any values that are important to you, but are not listed.

Value/ Trait Definition % of Importance % I Practice
Honesty Tell the truth
Without blame or judgment
Integrity Act in an honorable way - Do the right thing.
Stand up for what’s right.


Respect for Self Have a high regard for who you are Do not abuse your body or spirit through drugs, laziness or putdowns. Strive to be the best you can be. 75


Respect for Others Recognize the worth of other people. Show others that you value and appreciate them through your actions and comments. 90
Responsibility Able to choose between what is right and what is wrong.
Responsible for your behavior and you accept the consequences of you behavior.
Can be trusted. Are reliable.




Courtesy Uses good manners.
Is polite.
Is thoughtful of others.


Core Value Assessment

Value/ Trait Definition % of Importance % I Practice
Peace To create tranquility within myself, my family, and the world.    
Wealth To earn a great deal of money (i.e., well beyond my family's basic needs).
To be financially independent.
Happiness To be content within myself and within my life    
Success To achieve significant goals.
To be involved in undertakings I believe personally are significant - whether or not they bring me recognition from others.
To have strong, mutual heart relations with other people
To connect beyond words and actions
Fame To be recognized as someone special by large numbers of people    
Authenticity To be fully present and without preconceived notions    
Influence To have an effect on the character or behavior of someone or something.    
Power To do something or to act in a particular way.
To influence the behavior of others, the emotions, or the course of events.
To have authority given or delegated to you.
To have physical strength or force.
Justice To engage in just behavior or treatment.    
Faith/Hope To have complete trust and confidence
To maintain a feeling of expectation and desire
Honesty To tell the truth, without blame or judgment    
Loyalty To be committed to the goals of a group of people who share my beliefs, values and ethical principles.    
Integrity To live and work consistent with my personal values and standards.
To acknowledge/stand up for my personal beliefs.
Enjoyment To take pleasure in my life
To possess and benefit from my life choices
Love To maintain a deep feeling of affection for life    
Leadership To motivate and energize other people.
To feel responsible for identifying and accomplishing needed group tasks.
Recogntition/ Expertness To be recognized for whom I am and my contribution to life
To become a known and respected authority in what I do.
Family/Community To have time with my family
To be deeply involved with a group that has a larger purpose beyond one's self.
To perform in effective and caring teamwork
Truth To discern fact from fiction    
Wisdom To grow in understanding of myself, my personal calling and life's real purpose.
To grow in knowledge and practice my spiritual beliefs.
To find lasting meaning in what I do.
Status/Prestige To be seen by others as successful.
To become well known.
To obtain recognition and status in my chosen field.
Respect for Self To have a high regard for who I am
To not abuse my body or spirit through drugs, laziness or putdowns.
To strive to be the best I can be.
Respect for Others Recognize the worth of other people.
To show others that I value and appreciate them through my actions and comments.
Location To be able to live where I want to live.    
Responsibility To choose between what is right and what is wrong. To be responsible for my behavior and accept the consequences of my behavior.
Can be trusted. Are reliable.
Courtesy To treat others as I wish to be treated    
Creativity To be innovative.
To create new and better ways of doing things.
Health To be physically and mentally fit.    
Service To contribute to the well-being and satisfaction of others.
To help people who need help and improve society.
Independence To have freedom of thought and action.
To be able to act in terms of my own time schedules and priorities.


Looking at the last two columns of the above table, consider the differences between your perceived level of importance of the value and your actual level of practice in day to day life. Describe what you think causes you to value at one level and to practice at another level.


5. Looking at the percentage of importance and the percentage of actual practice, narrow the list to the eight most important values by crossing off less important ones.

6. Now narrow the list to five, using the same process. Consider if some values are actually absorbed by other values.

7. Now narrow the list to two or three values that are drop-dead, cannot live without values.

8. In the space under Reactions, make a note of your experience from this process. Thoughts, inner conversations, physical or emotional reactions, insights, and/or surprises.


Further Refining

In the space provided below, list the two or three absolutely core values and describe the depth of meaning or importance you associate with each value. To verify that these are core values, check to see if these values meet the seven conditions of a core value.

[ ]Yes [ ]No Do I Consciously select one's beliefs and behaviors by choosing (1) freely, (2) from alternatives and (3) after thoughtful consideration of consequences of each alternative.

[ ]Yes [ ]No Do I Honor one's beliefs and behaviors by (4) internally prizing and cherishing (being happy with the choice) and (5) willing to publicly affirming, when appropriate.

[ ] Yes [ ] No Do I Live my beliefs by (6) acting, that is, doing something with chosen value, and (7) acting on the value repeatedly in some pattern and consistency.

If you answered no to any of the three questions, revisit the list to see if there is a value that you live and did not include in the list.

Once you have your two or three core values, describe or list why each value is so important...use stories or examples if needed. Incorporate how well you practice or do not practice this value.

Making Sense of Your Core Values

You have just discovered, or rediscovered, your core values. Core values often hide deep within us and remind us that something is not “right”. Ethical leadership is knowing your core values and having the courage to integrate them with your actions, being mindful of the common good.

Your core values can help you make difficult decisions or lifestyle choices, select employment, raise a child - the possibilities are endless. They can even help you find common ground with someone you disagree with. The important thing is to integrate them as fully as possible into your life.

Going Beyond The Individual–For dyads and Couples

With your partner, try the following. Facing each other (sitting or standing) make direct eye contact and say your core values. Listen closely to the differences and the similarities. Describe what you notice.

Discuss together how you chose your values, what they mean to you, and how you express them. Describe what you notice from this experience.

Life Choices

Reflect a moment, then describe how your values have changed over the course of your life.

Looking at each core value, list specific steps of what you can do to ensure that you practice what you value and therefore do not delude11 your integrity.

Blind Spots

Recognizing that we may have blind spots or things that go bump in the night, what are some situations or times that will test our values and/or ability to practice them fully?

Your Plan

Reflect upon this process and your core values and describe what you plan to do to ensure that you honor, select and live values with integrity. Living values with integrity means being deep rooted and capable of bending under gale force winds without breaking12.


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