Values in action: The meaning of executive vignettes

By Michael M. Lombardo
Center for Creative Leadership


This report contains executive vignettes collected during a research project involving 400 executives in eight organizations. It analyzes individual stories and categorizes them into four broad themes: (1) how things work politically in an organization, (2) how people are treated, (3) how one gets ahead, and (4) the proper role of an executive in an organization. Under each type of story, prominent themes that emerged are discussed, illustrative vignettes and reported learning are represented, and the overall lessons of each category are summarized. It is noted that these vignettes depict important values issues for managers and executives and, when taken collectively, they reflect the unwritten values stances of organizations. The report concludes by comparing the cultures of several companies as revealed by the vignettes. Attention is given to the role of industry, competitive strategies, and corporate history in shaping values. The report contains three appendices which deal with the study of developmental events, the characteristics of values events, and approaches to the study of corporate culture.


Lombardo, M. M. (1986). Values in action: The meaning of executive vignettes (Technical Report No. 28). Center for Creative Leadership.

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