The term “value” can be used as a verb or a noun. As a verb, “to value” means to care about something; as a noun, it refers to the object of the valuing or the thing that one cares about. Leadership, management, and followership are all ultimately driven largely by what people care about — what they “value.” The earliest extensive study of human values was conducted by Milton Rokeach and published in 1973. Rokeach and his associates defined a value as “an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence.” They called values relating to end states as “terminal values” and values relating to desirable modes of conduct as “instrumental values.”

  • Terminal values are analogous to Blake and Mouton’s concept of task-related focus and refer to goals and objectives we care about and take action to acquire–goals like wealth and popularity. (The word “terminal” here invokes the notion of a goal as an “end,” sort of the way a bus terminal is at the end of the bus route.) They also refer to the tasks that any work team or individual team member performs to achieve the goals of the team, the organization, or the community.
  • Instrumental values are analogous to Blake and Mouton’s concept of relationship focus and provide guides to behavior affecting relationships, such as honesty and perseverance. (The word “instrumental” here implies that one’s own behavior can be used as an “instrument.”) If one seeks both wealth and popularity as terminal values or goals, then perseverance and honesty would qualify as appropriate instrumental values. They also refer to the relationships between and among group members, since relationships depend on the way group members treat each other; honesty, for example, tends to nurture group relationships positively, while dishonesty tends to undermine group relationships.


Rokeach and his associates developed the Rokeach Values Survey to measure the extent to which people on average claim to value specific goals or end states (primary terminal values) and specific modes of behavior (primary instrumental values). Their research ranked the top eighteen values in each category as follows:

  • Primary Terminal Values (goals): true friendship, mature love, self-respect, happiness, inner harmony, equality, freedom, pleasure, social recognition, wisdom, salvation, family security, national security, accomplishment, a world of beauty, a world of peace, a comfortable life, an exciting life
  • Primary Instrumental Values (behaviors): cheerfulness, ambition, love, cleanliness, self-control, capability, courage, politeness, honesty, imagination, independence, intellect, broadmindedness, logic, obedience, helpfulness, responsibility, forgiveness

Members of effective groups and organizations tend to share the most important values, and leaders tend to represent the primary values of the group. One of the more challenging aspects of the research suggests that people frequently value opposing or even conflicting values. Among the terminal values, for example, “national security” and “a world at peace” may drive much different attitudes, such as trust versus suspicion of foreigners. Among the instrumental values, “ambition” and “obedience” may clash with several other items on the list. Thus human decision-making can be a complex matter, especially when the environment and prevailing circumstances are changing rapidly and constantly.