Each day when we wake up, we can choose to do the right thing. We have to be brave to step away from the crowd and follow what we know deep down is the ethical choice. It’s what will build our credibility and our reputations in the most genuine and productive way. We can be smart, talented, determined, strategic, and successful with short-term wins all over our resumes, but it’s our ability to connect with our values and let them guide our decision-making processes that will define our long-term successes and our potential to truly make a difference.
Let’s talk about the moral compass, a term we hear Dean Sandra J. Peart use in a 2016 article from Fast Company. As an alumnus of the University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies, I volunteer at the school often and have the privilege of working with Dean Peart. She’s an incredible inspiration and a true role model when it comes to connecting ethics and leadership. In this article, she shares a quote I’ve grown to love. Peart tells us “You have to know what your values are and ‘where the lines are that I will not cross or the things I will not do.’” She makes a point to ensure we all understand why we should never feel pressured or pushed to do things that don’t align with our own values, especially since we’re so often asked to move quickly and make critical business decisions on the fly.
I love this concept of a moral compass. In a fast-paced world where it can often seem much more efficient to take short cuts to get ahead, we can quickly lose sight of what we really should and shouldn’t do. Getting caught in a spiral of asking for forgiveness rather than permission, or constantly sacrificing what’s right for what’s easy, will generally land us in a much tougher spot than where we began.
Of course, we’ll probably make mistakes along the way, occasionally getting off track from true North. I have, and these mistakes have helped me learn and grow more than all my successes combined. The mistakes are the things we don’t forget, and they help us get back to our moral compass so we can make the right choices going forward. The more we connect with our own values, the more we know ourselves, our strengths, and where we can drive progress with the most positive approach.
It doesn’t matter what your specific values are, but it’s important to know them, to understand who you are, and to commit to how you’ll use them in the most impactful and ethical way. I challenge you to write down your top three values, and keep them close by. Honesty? Integrity? Professionalism? It’s up to you. Revisit them daily and test yourself – are you embracing them fully? Do they guide your actions? Do they reflect your strengths?
When we truly start to live by our values and find our moral compass, we won’t have to think about them any longer. They should be an intrinsic part of us, right at the core center of our being. When we’re that connected to who we are, we’ll gain trust, build genuine relationships, find purpose, and make meaningful contributions wherever we go. True leadership shines when we have values and stick to them.
Moran, G. (2016) How To Be Your Own Leadership Development Coach. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3063476/how-to-be-your-own-leadership-development-coach