Nurturing Your Inner Leader: The Value of Your Values

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Can you remember your last high pressure sales experience? What emotions did it stir in you – excitement, fear, caution, anger?

A few weeks ago I was offered a fantastic deal on something that required me to make a decision in a few minutes. At the time, the salesman’s high pressure tactics caused a surprising amount of emotions and anxiety. I ended up declining the offer but the experience has made me assess what really occurred when I felt stress about this $250 decision.

Research shows that we encounter stress when we are faced with situations or decisions that conflict with our values. What we often label stress, discomfort or uncertainty is actually a demonstration of a cause and effect relationship. When you are faced with situations that are incongruous with your beliefs or your values (the cause), we are affected by stress-causing emotions (the effect). When you do not understand your values, your ability to handle stress decreases and can cause even more stress (Brendel).

Research shows us that resilient people understand their values and use them to minimize stress. Here are three ways that defined values can help you:

  1. Identify the source of stress: Values can help you identify the cause of your stress. Imagine that you feel anxious every time you speak with your boss. This indicates a value conflict. What are your values? What value(s) does your boss conflict with? Once you understand this, you can begin to develop strategies to deal with the value conflict root issue.
  2. Reduce stress: Understanding your values can help you respond to day-to-day stress in healthier ways. Over time, your value clarity will help you avoid stress altogether. Your brains will quietly process the difficult situation with your boss and tell you that your value of harmony conflicts with your boss’s value of innovation through conflict and you will quietly respond with a tried-and-true strategy. You likely won’t even know this value-assessment process occurred.
  3. Avoid or reduce conflict: Values can also help you structure your life to minimize unnecessary stress. When you know your values you can be intentional about aligning your life with them. If you value sobriety, you should not be frequenting places where alcohol is served. Conversely, if you value teamwork, you should look for jobs which involve collaboration and not a lone-ranger role.

My indecision about the high pressure sale was due to value conflict.

  • I know that my wife and I consult each other before making financial decisions over $200 – value conflict!
  • I know our financial priorities and this item was not on the list – value conflict!
  • I also believe that something too good to be true is almost always too good to be true – value conflict!

As a result of knowing my values, I experienced peace about my decision to say no because I aligned my decision with my values. This demonstrates the value of values.

Define your values | Memorize Your Values | Revisit Your Values When Facing Stress

Socrates once offered us the wise counsel, “know thyself”. As we come to define and understand our values, we provide ourselves with a filter by which to understand and minimize some of the stress we encounter. And who amongst us wouldn’t like a bit less stress!


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a values-driven consultant, professor and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman



Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Brendel, D. (Sept. 8, 2015). Manage stress by knowing what you value. Harvard Business Review on-line

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