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Leadership & Organisations

The Values of “Insightfully Aware” Leaders

Ian C. Woodward, INSEAD Affiliate Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Programme Director of the INSEAD Advanced Management Programme |

Values Types and the Personal Values System

Extracted from Ian C. Woodward & Samah Shaffakat:

 “Understanding Values for Insightfully Aware Leadership”,

INSEAD Faculty and Research Working Paper (2014/46/OBH)


Values can be clustered in 12 types each according to their characteristics. In our research Understanding Values for Insightfully Aware Leadership we have expanded on the 10 value types developed by Shalom Schwartz to create the list found below:


  Definitions Word Description Examples
Self-Direction Independent thought and action; choosing, creating, exploring, and drive. Capacity to Contribute, Creativity, Empowered, Personally-Engaged/Diligent Freedom/Liberty
Stimulation Excitement, novelty, optimism and challenge in life. Energized, Daring, Opportunity-Seeking, Alive, Excited
Hedonism Pleasure and sensuous gratification for oneself. Pleasure, Fun, Indulgence, Enjoying Life, Personal Gratification
Achievement Personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards. Accomplishment/Successful, Esteem/ Pride/Confidence, Ambition, Rewarded, Intelligence
Power Social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources. Powerful, Invincible, Social Recognition, Importance, Authority/Decisive, Affluence/Wealth
Security Safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self. Security, Safety, Healthy, Financially-Independent, Sense of Belonging
Conformity Restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms. Self-Discipline/Obedience, Professional, Dedicated, Persistent, Responsible, Respectful/Tolerant to Others
Tradition Respect for, commitment to, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that traditional culture or religion provide the self. Respect Religion, Respect Social Norms, Respect Customs, Humility, Devout
Ethical Judgment Personal ethicality or moral compass in terms of integrity, honesty, fairness, transparency, accountability, dependability, mutual respect. Honesty/Integrity, Accountability/ Reliability, Fairness, Ethical, Authenticity
Benevolence Preserving and enhancing the welfare of those with whom one is in frequent personal contact (the ‘in-group’). Trust, Family, Relationships, Teamwork, Empathy, Loyalty
Universalism Understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature. Equality/Inclusion, Helping Disadvantaged, Spirituality, Wisdom, Social Justice
Highly-Abstract Values Representation of an idealistic personal state when other values are satisfied such as absolute bliss, completeness, ultimate happiness or elation, total harmony, nirvana and the like. Ultimate Happiness, Ecstatic/Elation, Nirvana/Bliss, Complete-Calm/Serenity, Absolute Joy/Fulfillment


Schwartz (1994) placed his values types in a circle, a model which again we have amended to include our own research findings – and build upon research from Milton Rokeach (1973), Norman Feather (1995), Kyle Longest, Steven Hitlin and Stephen Vaisey (2013) as well many other studies. Values can be both compatible/congruent and in conflict with each other irrespective of where they lie in the circle and should be considered in context of any given situation.

Naveen Khajanchi,

Very insightful article !

Victor Seco,

Outstanding contribution to the development of the structure of personal values ​​proposed by Schwartz. It would be very interesting to consider such developments in terms of profiles of organizational values ​​however proposed by Oliveira, AF & Tamayo, A. (2004). Profiles of organizational values​​. Magazine -RAUSP Administration. 39 (2), 129-140.


Great blog reminding us of the power of values based leadership, as a means of creating emotional connection and engagement, interesting model, just curious, if innovation & entrepreneurship are the key catalysts for shaping a sustainable global future (G20 summit, World Economic Forum to name a few global bodies) why is innovation left out as a value, and creativity squashed in under Self Direction, and Conformity identified as a cluster why is self efficacy also left out, which is the underlying value of a successful entrepreneur. I am unable to understand why the tool is so conventional and today and not future focused,


Very interesting article. Thank you for sharing your studies and conclusions thereof.

The way values (abstract concepts in their own right) are expressed is a reflection of the shared historical experience of a community. In other words, values are the glue that holds societies together.

However, each society will claim they value "honesty" or "life" or "education" but only assert it at face value. The real differences appear when two people explicitly state what they mean when they used such words. It is here that the specifics of a common experience (real or imagined, it makes little difference) come to the surface.

For a leader, it is fundamental to their success to understand the "true" meaning those being asked to follow put behind such a word. Communicating values is only as effective as the community this creates.


I teach values to children and therefore responding to this article.If the values are written down by the employee or by the CEO and visibly posted, it will be a constant daily reminder what should and how should a task or decision be carried out. Such a simple Tool is capable of focussing at the moment and prevent mistakes.


An important fact is, to state so far how many organizations have practiced values and what is their rate of success. This fact sheet will motivate entrants interested in pursuing this approach.
thanks for reading.

Debbie Ruston,

Great article. Understanding our values is the basis of all decision making.

Jacob Morris,

Ian, this was a great read. I just downloaded your research paper and really looking forward to diving into this more to understand the leadership component.

I have been working with Dr. Schwartz to make his research and values assessment available to the coaching community at,

On the coaching side, I've only just scratched the surface with this project, and definitely want to look into the management, leadership, corporate applications for this work.

We also run a podcast on values, I'd love to have you on our show to discuss this research paper in detail.

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