Ethics and Human Interface:

Lecture 4 : Human Values – Lessons from the Lives and Teachings of Great Leaders

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Values can be expressed as those things somebody appreciates. In other words, values are what a person or an organization considers to be “important.” Examples are courage, honesty, freedom, innovation etc.

Value Degree of Importance of Something Particular

Value expresses the degree of importance of something (including an action). Values assists in determining the best actions to do.

Values are ‘beliefs’ about ‘what is important’

Values are an individual’s or a social group’s beliefs on what is deemed valuable that motivates people to behave one way or another. e”Equal rights for all,” “Merit above all else,” ” Dignity of Labor,” etc. are delegated principles.

Values are Created by Formal and Informal Education. 

Formal education is what we get through our teachers, books, and the education system in schools. Values instill consistency in us and contribute to our thought variety. Values also help people overcome challenges that are peculiar to us in different ways. Values are also the basis for our attitudes which determine our behavior. Lastly, values help build a love for one’s own country.

Values (What is Important?) vs. Ethics (What is Right?)

What is important?What is right?
What should I achieve?What is the correct action?
Differs from person to personUsually considered universal

Values are ideals of someone (or a group) about what is good or bad (or desirable or undesirable).

Ethics is all about reasoning how to do the right action. (Don’t miss the article on the dimensions of ethics from.

Remember, Values Motivate, While Morals and Ethics Constrain.

The conflict between Values and Ethics

People tend to embrace values they grow up with. They also seem to feel that their knowledge in their particular culture makes certain beliefs “right.”

For instance, if making money is a value by the criteria of some specific culture without understanding how the money is being produced then the act of making money itself seems correct to a individual from that culture irrespective of the means to make that money.

Choosing which values to hold higher against another is a matter of ethical decision.

A conflict between Values: Value ‘A’ vs. Value ‘B’

Conflicts can be a result of competing value systems. Person A whose honesty value is higher than efficiency may not see eye to eye with person B who values efficiency over honesty.

Values vary among Individuals, Cultures, and Time

Like morality, values do differ among people, across cultures and across time.

For instance, the flag of your nation may represent a sacred value for some people. But for others, the flag is perhaps just a piece of cloth.

Types of values

We know the ideals of honesty, goodness, humility etc. They create a set of values known as Moral Values. There are also other types of values – such as Genius, Beauty, Power etc. Moral values, however, are ranked as the highest of all-natural values.

Values can be classified as:

  • Spiritual Values
  • Moral Values
  • Social Values
  • Intellectual Values
  • Economic Values
  • Political Values etc

Personal Values vs. Social Values

Personal Values – Important for individual well being.

Examples: self-respect, comfortable life, freedom etc.

Social Values – Important for other people’s well being.

Examples: equality, social justice, national security, world peace etc.

Note: A positive and fulfilling life requires a coordinated and balanced pursuit of both self-serving and other serving values.

Lessons From the Lives and Teachings of Great Leaders, Reformers and Administrators

We are blessed to have a lot of great leaders, reformers and administrators who have respected noble values and morals. Not only did they live an ethical life, they also trained a great many human values.

Let’s take a glance at the lessons from eminent individuals ‘ lives. In the following posts we’ll deal with each of them in detail.

PersonalitiesWhat they Valued
Mahatma GandhiSimplicity, Minimalism, Satyagraha, Sarvodaya, Secularism, Ahimsa, Non-Violence, Truth, Forgiveness, Self-Sufficiency, Dignity of labour etc.
Jawaharlal NehruDemocracy, institution building, consensus building, socialism, secularism, self-determination, internationalism etc.
Nelson MandelaService, dignity, self-belief, equality of the human race, freedom, fairness, justice, etc.
Abraham LincolnHumanism, equality of the human race, integrity, idealism, honesty, freedom etc.
Martin Luther King JrSelf-belief, equality of the human race etc.
Raja Rammohan RoySocial equality, equality of the human race, women empowerment, scientific thinking etc.
Swami VivekanandaSelf-belief, equality of the human race, patriotism, compassion etc.
B R AmbedkarSelf-belief, equality of the human race, radical thinking, compassion etc.
Mother TeresaCompassion, altruism, helpfulness, kindness, cleanliness, determination.
Verghese KurienSelf-belief, co-operative societies, entrepreneurship, innovation, farmer welfare etc.
M.S. SwaminathanSustainable development, green revolution, poverty alleviation, farmer welfare etc.
Sam PitrodaSelf-belief, dreaming big, entrepreneurship, policy making, innovation etc.
E. SreedharanPunctuality, self-belief, integrity, high-quality standards etc.

Practice Question-

  1. With the support of one example of great personality, describe the values of morality.