The Importance of Value-Driven Behaviour

Let’s assume I have two separate interactions, one with John and one with Steven. They both need something from me, let’s say a pen, which I give to them. However, they have a different experience of my giving of the pen. John’s view, probably based on past experience, is that the only reason for me giving him the pen is so that I can go to him tomorrow and demand something that I want. Steven feels that I gave him the pen for no other reason than the fact that he needed the pen. The question here is who is going to be loyal to me?

Intent is The Difference

Clearly John has experienced me to be a manipulating rascal, whereas Steven will see me as having been quite sincere. It seems that John will therefore be loyal to me. Now, if one tried to account for the difference between the interaction with John and that with Steven then that difference will clearly not lie in the behaviour itself, because what happened behaviourally in both instances is that one person handed another person a pen. The difference lies in my intention, in other words, what is important to me. In John’s case he saw that in giving him the pen I was pursuing my needs, whereas Steven saw that I was trying to do that which the situation required, my behaviour was value-driven behaviour.

This suggests that true giving requires a person to act for a reason which is higher than their self-interest. Giving requires that we set aside our needs and rather act on the basis of values. Few people, for example, would argue that when one speaks to others one should not consistently lie. This suggests that we all understand that the value that underlies all communication is honesty. In other words, when you are in a situation where you have to speak then you should speak the truth.

Now assume we are all sitting in a room where the lights are switched on and you asked me whether the lights are switched on. If I answer truthfully that the lights were switched on, you have not really demonstrated anything about my honesty. However, ask me about something that could potentially damage my self-interest and I still speak the truth, have I now demonstrated something about my honesty? I clearly have.

This suggests that for me to be an honest man means that I need to remain honest particularly in those situations where it is not in my interest. In other words, when I demonstrate that I am able to contradict my self-interest in order to do the right thing, is when people experience me to be sincere about my values. In this sense, honesty is something that I regard as higher than my self-interest with regard to which I am able to put my self-interest second.

Subordinates Know When The Leader is Protecting His/Her Self-Interests

The argument is therefore as follows: Every situation that confronts you has two possibilities within it. The one is what you want to get, what your needs are in that situation. The other is to consider what the right thing to do is, what is the value that is operative in that situation. A leader’s subordinates are generally as acutely aware of what the value in a given situation is. In other words, when he acts in a way which confirms his own interest rather than what the right thing is to do, this becomes immediately apparent to his people. They conclude that he is self-serving and therefore withhold their trust.

This does not mean to say that the leader should not have needs. However, just because a person has needs does not mean to say that it is legitimate to act consistently with them. I may be very hungry. That does not mean to say that it is acceptable for me to mug the little old lady for her handbag. The leader cultivates a loyal following based on the degree to which he demonstrably negates his own needs by consistently acting on the basis of his values – also known as value-driven behaviour.

Leave a Reply