What do you value the most?

One morning during breakfast at the Hilton Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, I was reading a newspaper article titled, “Evaluating Valuers”.[1]

The article focused on the importance of evaluating the qualifications and practices of the person conducting the valuation of a property in relation to its location and surroundings, and the planning provisions governing the development of the area. Much of the decision-making concerning the property is based on the depth of expertise offered by the valuer.

I contemplated this article having only the previous day taken a group of leaders through a two-day executive leadership program. This program drew on each leader’s comprehensive story and insights for creating a new leadership trajectory for them and their organizations.

However, the article made me think carefully about how we place a high value on some things more than others; even trusting the judgment of others to define that for us. Wise counsel is important, but so is understanding for ourselves what is important, and why it is important to us.

A leader’s values influences all behavior and decisions. They represent how leaders want to be recognized and what they want to be known for. They are foundational to their personal brand and the type of organizational culture they want to create. At a deeper level, there is a question about the resiliency of a leader’s values in relation to performance. Understanding this brings us to the importance of a leader’s ‘value code’.[2]

In How Will You Measure Your Life? [3] Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth & Karen Dillon evaluate the experiences of Harvard graduates whose attendance at a series of five-year reunions began to drop off.

At the fifth year reunion, there was a big turnout, and “everyone seemed so polished and prosperous.” Everyone thought they were part of something special.

By the tenth reunion, things had changed quite drastically. Some of the classmates didn’t attend, so Christensen decided he would call them. Slowly, he began to put the pieces together.

“Among my classmates were executives at renowned consulting and finance firms like McKinsey & Co. and Goldman Sachs; others were on their way to top spots in Fortune 500 companies; some were already successful, and a few were earning enormous, life-changing amounts of money. Despite such professional accomplishments, however, many of them were clearly unhappy.”[4]

This led Christensen to question what happened between the fifth-year reunion and the ten-year reunion? Why was there so much dissatisfaction? Why were there so many family failures? After all, they all had a great education and it resulted in the careers they had dreamed of years earlier. What changed?

Not long ago, I also witnessed a similar phenomenon. I was sitting with a group of high achieving CEOs and executives who shared their stories. From the twelve that were present, five of them had experienced divorce, and there were some who were no longer a part of their grown children’s lives. Their professional success had come at great personal cost, alienating them from the very people who loved them the most. This is why the insights shared by Christensen, Allworth & Dillon are so important—many never make it back from the path of compromise; you can’t have a meaningful conversation about happiness without understanding what makes you tick; and how you allocate your resources, energy and time is where the rubber meets the road.

What’s the bottom-line?

As you continue on your leadership journey and pursue your goals, it is helpful to take moments to reflect on what is important to you and why you value some outcomes more than others? Other reflections that may help, include:

  • Are you focusing on immediate or short-term gains at the expense of longer-term outcomes?
  • As leaders climb the organizational ladder, often their social connections become poorer. What can you do to stay connected and build strong, healthy relationships that will weather your storms?
  • What would it look like if your life was totally congruent with your values?

Christensen, Allworth & Dillon encourage leaders not to pursue “the trap of marginal thinking,” rather, chase the most important investments.[5]


[1] “Evaluating valuers”, New Straits Times, Malaysia. Friday, August 10, 2012. 4.

[2] “Building Resilient Character”, Leadership Capacity Program™, Outward Looking International, 2015.

[3] Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth & Karen Dillon, eds. How Will You Measure Your Life? Finding Fulfilment Using Lessons From Some of the World’s Greatest Businesses. Hammersmith, London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012.

[4] Ibid., 12.

[5] Ibid., 176.

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