Remember the days when personal values were things we bragged about? We were proud to live by a set of standards—many of which were handed on by our grandparents.
“The standards were grounded in an ethic of hard work and a spirit of generosity.
It’s upsetting every time we read about a prominent figure that lies, steals, or commits fraud. Why do bright and talented people like Jeffrey Skilling, Eliot Spitzer, Tiger Woods—and yes, Kim Karsdashian—do stupid things and fall from grace in the public’s eye? Each one of these individuals has made choices that show poor personal values.
“Personal values guide us toward making wise moral choices and intelligent ethical decisions. They are grounded in integrity, and the way in which we choose to respond in any given situation tests our personal values.
Whether Kim Kardashian thought she could make money through selling her wedding photos, or expected her reality TV shows fans to be gullible enough to be surprised by her seventy-two day marriage to Kris Humphries, her choices reflect the lack of values in popular culture, such as honesty, sympathy, compassion, fairness, self-control, and duty.
Ownership of Values
What values do you portray in your leadership? Whether you lead a team of hundreds or an army of one, your reputation as a leader is at risk if you’re unable to effectively convey your personal values to others. This requires that you do two things:
- Acknowledge those values
- Find ways for your life to reflect those values
Personal values are unique and deep-rooted in each one of us. Many of us find ourselves too busy to take the time to consider how our values impact the way we live our lives. In fact, there’s a good chance that we would be hard pressed to name our personal values if asked to write them down.
I worked as a manager at a department store for a few years right out of college. Every year we had to endure the annual inventory of stock. In essence, we compared what we actually owned compared to what we thought we owned.
If you were to take inventory of your life over the past year, how did your personal values help you make the best decisions and wise moral choices?
Here are some for you to consider:
- Power – identify when you’ve used your power and influence in ways that have enhanced your leadership of others.
- Achievement – list your successes. Did you acknowledge those who helped you to succeed?
- Self-gratification – remember the times you’ve enjoyed your life and felt pleasure in giving to others.
- Motivation – who inspires you? Why? Who do you inspire?
- Self-direction – celebrate the times you’ve been curious enough about yourself that you stopped in your busy schedule to find out more.
- Benevolence – remember the times you’ve treated others with a spirit of honesty, helpfulness, forgiveness, loyalty, and friendship. Commit to doing it more often.
- Tradition – pinpoint the instances when you’ve reacted with humbleness and respect.
- Conformity – notice your self-discipline (or lack of) when confronted with the unexpected, disappointment, and adversity.
- Security – remind yourself that you are not an island and not alone. How have you rejoiced in belonging to something bigger than yourself?
- Spirituality – give thanks for the times you remembered you are not your own God.
A review of our personal inventory not only reminds us of the values we have in stock and at our disposal, but also of how many of them have shifted over time.
Who Are You Becoming?
Who a person is becoming is much more important than who they’ve been in the past. All of the actions, choices, decisions, experiences, and people that you included in your inventory are pointing to the person you are becoming.
With every day that passes and every decision we make, we are either getting closer to who we want to be or we’re taking a step back. Be sure your words and choices reflect the leader you want to become.
Be a Good Steward of Your Resources
Your decisions about the way you allocate your personal time and energy toward nurturing choices that reflect your personal values will ultimately shape your life’s strategy.
When recruiting foreign spies to work for the U.S. government, FBI agents such as myself looked for vulnerabilities in their character. The biggest disruptions in their lives always occurred when they allocated less and less time to the things that mattered most to them. If we look at the root causes of the disruption we see on Wall Street and our economy, we’ll find that most of it has been caused by our choice for immediate gratification.
If you are to be a leader who exhibits personal values, you must do the following:
- Command a firm understanding of your personal values
- Articulate them to both yourself and those around you
- Allocate sufficient time to the things in life that matter the most
- Exhibit compassion to family, organization, and yourself
A good number of people are fed up with the dishonesty, greed, and self-absorption—whether it’s seen on reality TV or in the mirror.
Think about your life and what is important to you. Do you use words that reflect your personal values in your vocabulary? If not, how can you convey them to those around you?
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LaRae Quy is former FBI Agent and Founder at Your Best Adventure
She helps clients explore the unknown and discover the hidden truth in self & others
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