Why do we base our development programmes on moral values?

We believe that everything is based on our values, through which we shape our attitudes.

Each of us, whether we are aware of it or not, has developed a certain internal value system that serves as a "compass" for making everyday decisions. It enables us to navigate in unclear situations where our decision-making is put to the test of congruence. As a model situation, we can give an example of decisions where we may feel tempted to make a quick gain. This may be money, goods, or any advantage that is simply not ours to take. Our decisions and actions are thus tested to see whether we can keep a cool head and our values even in such situations. This value system is continuously being formed in each of us and is influenced by the following factors:

1. Socializing

One of the main aspects of socializing is the acquisition of moral standards and values. By socializing, we internalise the values and standards that are recognised by the community in which we operate. Since our childhood, we acquire values that shape our internal value system through family, school, interest organisations, religious institutions, etc.

Socialisation is the process by which an individual gradually integrates into a community or society. It is mainly a social learning process through which a person acquires social standards, values, attitudes and forms of social behaviour (including moral principles and certain standards of behaviour). The most well-known ways of acquiring values and attitudes are as follows:

  1. Imitation – imitating the behaviour and actions of a role model (a "living" role model or even a symbolic role model – e.g. one presented in the media, in a particular corporate culture or in a given community, etc.). Imitation is usually unintentional.
  2. Identification – identification with a particular person, company, culture, community, role model or inspirational person. Identification is about identifying with one’s values.
  3. Assumption of social roles in personal and professional life, which is usually associated with the acquisition of certain principles, assumptions, standards, behaviours, etc., associated with a given role, e.g. the role of a mother or the role of a leader, or associated with a social role.

Another way of shaping the value ladder is through moral role models.

2. Moral role models

It is an effective method based on the consideration that if I myself become the role model of truly living my values, I will influence the people around me and, with my strong moral values, gradually lead them to emulate my example and behaviour. As an example, we can look at leaders seen as moral authorities. For example, John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Ľudovít Štúr and so on. Such reasoning is associated with a positive, ethical role model. An ethical role model is a specific role model for action and behaviour where the aspects of personality that are most valued in a given society usually emphasised. For example, loyalty, creativity, honesty, hard work, etc. Through positive ethical role models, desirable values that should lead to moral action can be promoted. 

The opposite of positive role models are negative role models. These force us to reflect on our actions. Based on a negative example, we try to learn our lesson and shape our values so as to avoid such wrong behaviour and actions.

Research by J. Kouzes and B. Posner in the area of positive and negative role models shows that people tend to learn and create their personal values more effectively based on a combination of positive and negative role models. This means that in addition to positive role models, negative ones also play an important role in the process of moral development. And it is these areas, such as value identification and clarification, ethical decision-making, moral imagination and others, that we actively develop in our development programmes offered through our new Leadership & Resilience service.

Another factor that fundamentally influences the formation of our value preferences is the process of value clarification.

3. Value clarification and congruence

Value clarification is a process in which individuals clarify their value preferences and their meaning in relation to other values. Values change based on our life experience. The main goal of the value clarification process is to recognize these changes and to become aware of their impact on our actions. Value clarification does not tell us which values we should profess, but it does provide us with an awareness through which we recognise which values are important to us.

Values are so important to us that we don't hide them from the world, but are willing (even eager) to talk about them in front of others under the right circumstances. In addition, our values go through a thorough thought process in which all the pros and cons and consequences of different decisions and attitudes are weighed. We try to make a decision that is our own and not formed under pressure from those around us and from authorities. Our behaviour is therefore based on our values. We don't just say that some matters are important to us, but these views and preferences are clear from how we live our lives. As Aristotle said, "we become what we do repeatedly".

It is for this reason that our development programmes place great emphasis on the awareness of one's own values, their identification, clarification and the development of congruent action also through the techniques of identification, clarification and moral imagination, which have an important place in the field of leadership and resilience.