October 23, 2019

The Difference Between Personality and Values

We sometimes get asked what the main differences are between values and personality. In short, personality represents our patterns of thinking and feeling (with no judgement involved) whereas values represent what we believe to be right. They are deeply held principles that guide our choices and influence our emotions.

Most people will be more familiar with tools that compare our personality as they have become common practice in the recruitment across a variety of industries. Yet some of the most popular tools such as Myers Briggs have been subject recently to more scrutiny. A well researched piece in the Financial Times and this piece by Adam Grant point out that the research behind the Big Five personality indicators is significantly more robust than Myers Briggs. The evidence behind the Big Five is why we use it as the basis for our reports.

However, perhaps the biggest problem with measuring personality alone is that it’s only a small piece of the story. Consistently, and especially in teams where collaboration is critical, we have found that values alignment between team members is more predictive of team performance. It’s useful to understand the difference between an introvert and an extrovert, this enables us to modify our behaviour. However, when really tough conflict happens in a team it tends to be driven by values not personality.

That’s why we believe that it’s important to measure both and understand the difference between the two.

  1. Values influence what we ought to do whereas personality influences what we naturally tend to do
  2. Values and personality interact in a logical way. There is evidence of a small correlation between some Big 5 personality types and given values. For example a small positive correlation between agreeableness and benevolence. Extraverts have been found to value stimulation and exciting new experiences.
  3. Both values and personality influence goal attainment: The manner in which we strive for goals is more driven by our personality. The content of the goal is more driven by our values


Of course there’s much more to us than personality and values…


Humans are complicated creatures. At any mating a couple could produce 52 trillion biologically distinct individuals*. Human individuality is genetically too complex for any one or two systems to explain. Therefore both of these models are simply a common language to describe and understand and express our similarities and differences. We have chosen the levels of analysis (5 factors of personality and 11 values) carefully. We are attempting to “walk the tightrope” between language that is accessible and not overly scientific whilst having enough scientific basis to have some predictive quality. If we can make small improvements to people’s wellbeing, happiness and productivity at work, we’re making progress.


Here are some tips:

  • When individuals become more aware of their values it helps them to make choices with which they feel comfortable. They can also become more aware of how they come across to others. Self awareness a first step in any change.
  • Pairs working in a team that might have had difficulties working well together can identify the cause of blockages or conflict helping to address problems. These might be personality related but are more likely to be related to values.
  • Teams can understand how they fit together holistically. What are the values of the team? What are the dominant personality traits of the team? What does this indicate for the team’s ability to achieve its goals? Are there any gaps or fault lines in the team?

Developing a language to discuss personality and values requires effort. If we succeed, the evidence indicates that it can help us design better teams and manage the relationships in teams more effectively. Therefore we’d encourage you to follow in our footsteps and hopefully reap the benefits!

  • Robert Ornstein: The Roots of the Self

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe