The Four Types of Corporate Values

February 15, 2023

people sitting at a desk

In today’s post-pandemic environment, having clear corporate values has become increasingly important. Your customers and employees want to know what you believe and whether their beliefs align with yours. This is an important part of attracting these like-minded individuals.

Corporate values also create continuity. Having consistency or continuity creates trust and builds your reputation. It’s also often when values break down that we see bigger breakdowns within the business.

As I’ve been focusing more on values, I learned there are different types of corporate values. According to Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, there are four types of values.

Four Types of Corporate Values

1. Core Values: These are exactly what they sound like. They represent the character of the business and the cornerstone of the culture. They’re non-negotiable.

2. Aspirational Values: These are desired values. I see this a lot, actually. They are the values the company desires to have as they work toward the vision, but are not yet displaying.

3. Permission-to-Play Values: These represent the bare minimum. Something every business should value. Honesty is a good example of a P-t-P value. If you’re in a business or industry where honesty feels like a core value, I would invite you to explore what honesty means. Does it mean transparency? Clear and direct feedback? Openness?

4. Accidental Values: These a little trickier, but often arise out of a collective sameness among employees. The example provided in the original article was an organization whose first hires were young, single adults. Together, they inadvertently skewed the values to be edgy, young and cool. Over time, the organization had to re-align itself with its original core values to grow.

Understanding these different types of values can be instrumental is evaluating your current values or preparing to write new ones. Your core values should be meaty, authentic and memorable.

If you’d like to learn more about how to write and activate your company’s values, you might enjoy my new program, Assembling Your Culture Guidebook. Not only do we identify your core values, but we also sketch out exactly how they manifest throughout the business.

And, don’t forget to sign up to receive my weekly newsletter, where I share tips and advice for activating your vision and values.




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Karen Bailey is a brand purpose consultant and specializes in helping companies define their purpose and align their business around it. In 2017, she launched the blog, Purpose Greater Than Profit, to start a meaningful conversation about the increasingly important role of brand purpose, purposeful leadership and a better way of doing business.


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