Have Values and Stick to Them

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

Keep Your Cool

In college I read the book Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury. In its fantastic simplicity, there are so many solid pieces of advice within these pages, it’s hard to pick just one to focus on today. For now, I’ll start with one of my favorites: Don’t react to emotional outbursts.

When we’re trying so hard to do our best, we can easily get caught in the moment and let our emotions take over. As Fisher and Ury articulate so well, when this happens, we tend to lose control, and in turn, lose some face. Our professionalism is truly at risk when we overreact or come to a discussion and literally lose our cool.

Strong leaders bring a sense of calm to a discussion, and can navigate through the toughest moments by staying even-keeled and open-minded. It’s a true test of strength to see if you can keep your emotions in check when the words and the feelings in the room heat up.

Why is it so easy to get so hot? Well, I like to think of it as we’re all coming to the discussion with the best of intentions. Our emotions stem from our overall goal to do our best, and when we feel we’re failing in that realm or we find our passions being challenged, it’s hard to stay cool.

I’ve said this before, but I think it’s worth revisiting: I used to react – hard. It took a long time for me to really get to a point where I learned that sharing our opinions is valuable, but battling it out is not. You don’t have to be right or win to make progress. There’s no room for the figurative boxing gloves in these heated moments. What we need to make room for is open dialogue, learning from each other, and making compromises that help us navigate to a middle ground that achieves a common goal. It sounds so easy, but it really does take practice. You’ll probably make some mistakes as you work through some of the tougher moments in life, but that is just one of the many ways we learn and grow.

If you’re willing to compromise along the way, you’ll get there easily. The trick is to compromise on your objectives, not your values. Make solid decisions, be convicted, and do the right thing. If you react, it triggers an emotional response and invites conflict, not productive compromise. Does compromising mean you’re a pushover? No way. It means you’re a business professional eager to make a group decision that everyone can feel good about, even if the objectives need to shift slightly in the process.

So, the next time the temperature heats up, take a beat and get your emotions in check. Maintain your professionalism, and remember that everyone’s heart is in a good place. If you see emotions rising, don’t react with your own heated remarks. Keep your cool and remember to always contribute positively to see productivity rise.