Contemporary Lessons

Lessons to experience a more meaningful life.

Lesson 1:
Values and Value Dilemmas[1]

To know who you are is to be oriented in moral space, a space in which questions arise about what is good and bad, what is worth doing and what is not, what has meaning and importance for you and what is trivial and secondary.
-- Taylor, (1989: 27)

The quiz

Let us understand the above quote by trying a simple match-the-following activity using 14 well known personalities from public spaces - present and past leaders - with a list of various values.

Take this quiz now, and come back with your score!
To see your score - click on View results button on the Thanks! page that appears after you Submit the quiz.

 Quiz: Values and Value Dilemmas 

Note that if you've got a score of more than 7 points (i.e. >50%) – you've done well. You are in the top 10% of the people surveyed.

A responsible leader is characterised by adherence to humanistic values and also considering these values while taking decisions and actions.

What could be the purpose behind this activity?

The purpose was to make you realize that leaders are people who hold on to strong positive values. In a way this activity and documents prods us to reflect, identify a priority list of values and then pick up one positive value to live for.

A brief write-up is shared below along with an interesting short PowerPoint presentation.  

Context and Purpose

Being a leader is far from easy; actions and behaviours of leaders are under close observation by their followers as well as their opponents.

Experience shows that leaders seldom lose their followers or their position because of low performance but more often by acting against organisational or societal values (for example, integrity).

Operating in a volatile environment, with many unknowns, uncertainties and high pressure, the leadership position involves:

  • responsibility for staff;
  • consideration for the success as well as reputation of the organisation;
  • delivery of high-quality outcomes;
  • loyalty to multiple clients; and
  • contribution to society's welfare.

This leads to value conflicts and dilemmas often faced by leaders.

A decisive factor enabling leaders to be successful in dealing with dilemmas and wicked problems is their ability to devote time for introspection, reflection and thereby consolidate their values-base. Such consolidated value-base is the rudder defining their path while traveling through unknown territory.

A responsible leader is characterised by adherence to humanistic values and also considering these values while taking decisions and actions.

Values are socio-cultural constructs deeply rooted in one’s personality. As values are developed early in childhood, individuals are often not clear about the implicit and tacit dimensions of their espoused values.

Consciousness about value dilemma and mastering the art of dealing with such dilemma enables a leader to act with integrity as well as with confidence in contexts uncertainty. In general, everybody deals with value conflicts and attempts to align their actions and behaviour with their espoused values.

We hope you probe into yourself to do the same. If there is a need – you can write to us for a lovely workshop on the same.

[1]This work is created by Ram Kumar Kakani with Mohan Dhamotharan (a GIZ Consultant). The views expressed herein the whole document and the puzzle are personal. We would like to acknowledge the help of two GIZ India team members -- Anita Sharma and Zia-ul-Hoda. The authors request for constructive ideas, inputs and ways to improve this work. All the feedback and suggestions for improvement be sent to