Integrity and Ethics, Personal Development, Values

Your Beliefs Matter

We’ve all heard the claim, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere!” Well, this article disputes that. Our beliefs do matter, for beliefs have consequences. Beliefs source and shape our values which in turn impact our behaviours. Our beliefs can be likened to the soil in which a plant’s roots (symbolizing our values) are nurtured and grow.

For example, if you believe that life has no inherent meaning and you have to struggle and bend life to your will in order to succeed, you’re likely to have such values as dominance, control, cunning and aggression. However, if you believe life is a sacred gift then your values will probably include such things as respect, justice, sustainability, community and empathy.

I’m fairly sure Vladimir Putin really believes that Ukraine belongs to Russia and that belief feeds his values of power and control and hence, in his eyes, justifies his bombing of Ukraine and deportation to Russia of Ukrainian adults and children. Volodymyr Zelensky however, rejects that belief. He believes Ukraine is a sovereign nation. And that belief feeds Zelensky’s values of resilience, service and compassion for his people.

Beliefs at Work in the Workplace

Someone who was well aware of how our beliefs shape our values and hence behaviours was  Douglas McGregor, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In the late 1950s McGregor developed theories around motivation in the workplace. His theories were extended further in his book “The Human Side of Enterprise” (1960). McGregor suggested two theories about what motivates employees – he called these Theory X and Theory Y.

Theory X

Managers who operate with a Theory X mindset, believe people:

  • Don’t like to work;
  • Try to avoid responsibility;
  • Lack ambition;
  • Constantly require direction and need to be controlled;
  • Need to be micromanaged;
  • Require threats and/or rewards to do a good job.

Theory Y

Theory Y managers however share a positive view of their people. Using a more collaborative and participatory management style they aim to create a respectful, trusting relationship with their direct reports. They recognise that people are looking for meaning, as well as money from their jobs.

As a result, Theory Y managers:

  • Believe people are responsible and hence they encourage employees to offer suggestions for improvements;
  • Help employees develop their skills and support them to pursue opportunities for promotion;
  • Allow people to use their own initiative;
  • Encourage staff to be included in appropriate decision-making.

Of course McGregor appreciated that while a Theory Y mindset is usually preferable, some jobs and situations require more of a Theory X approach. For example, in some industries such as engineering, transport, pharmaceutical, food production, for some roles precision and control are critically important. Also new employees may initially need more direction and control.


Contrast Putin’s beliefs with those of Volodymyr Zelensky. As already mentioned, Zelensky believes in the independence and sovereignty of the Ukrainian nation and also you should fight for what you believe in. From these beliefs have emerged his values of loving service to his people and resilience. Such values have motivated him to lead his nation’s resistance against Russian aggression and engage with democratic countries for military support. While Zelensky’s beliefs, values and actions have exalted him globally as an inspirational, heroic statesman, Putin’s have caused him to be seen around the world as a war monger and pariah and have resulted in a massive downturn in the Russian economy.

How have your beliefs empowered you to be an ethical and inspirational leader? What beliefs can you celebrate and develop further? What do you need to change? Is it time for some further reflection, perhaps with a coach or mentor?

Graham Beattie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *