Values & Principles

Values and principles? What are they? We hear these words when we talk about leadership. We hear them when we conduct strategic planning. We hear them when building our mission and vision for our organizations. Bold companies actually list them front and center for their clients to see.

Values and principles? Wikipedia states that “values generate behaviors.” The definition speaks of morals and ethics, integrity, honesty and respect. In businesses we may add on teamwork as a value. A leader may add humility as a value trait.

Wikipedia states that a principle is a “rule or law that has to be, or usually is to be followed.” It further states that values are what build the principles that we live by, manage by, and lead by. In our businesses and in leadership values and principles are the very foundations that everything else is built upon. Your mission, vision, initiatives, strategies, and business plans need to all point back to them.

Why is this important? It is important for many reasons. One, it establishes the culture of your organization and this culture is the very thing that you should desire throughout. Two, if you strongly believe that the values and principles that are built are the ones for your organization to live by, then building each plan around them is a strong foundation for success and for others to adopt and carry out. Finally, they need to be daily reminders to our leaders and employees and to be exhibited to our clients.

I once had a customer ask at a client meeting to our sales representative, “what is your Mission Statement?” This was the very first question she asked and it instantly told me about their organization. The question told me that Mission, Vision and Values were important to them. Not only should our answer be automatic when asked about our Mission Statement, we should naturally be able to explain the Mission to the customer and why it would be important to them.

Values and principles? Why are they important? They are important because values are what we live by and principles are what we stand on. If we truly live our values then our principles should be automatic, without hesitation. One morning I arrived in the office and there was $100 bill on the floor. However, my boss was in his office and he was the only one that had walked that path. In my mind I thought he might be testing me. But I will honestly state that I did not hesitate. I picked up the $100 bill and asked if he had dropped it, which he had. I do not think he would have known where he would have lost that $100 bill.

College Market Institute teaches in their Leadership Academy a session called, “The Moment of Truth.” The lessons bring the leaders in the workshop through scenarios and test them in their moment of truth to teach them what true leadership is. True leadership is living the values and driving the principles those values have become to be automatic. Keith Martino of College Market Institute, one of my many mentors, has taught me that there is no weight of measure on not living a value. In other words to break a value a little bit is just as bad as breaking it a lot.

Thomas Henderson gives the ultimate test or measure when he states, “the true test of character is if you do the right thing when nobody is looking.” Henderson explains that it is easy to do the right thing when others are watching but true character, like principles are automatic.

Mark Villareal
About the author: 

Mark is a Sr. Vice President with 5 Point Enterprises in San Antonio, TX.  Follow Mark on Twitter @markvillareal.