September 25, 2020


Make Your Core Values Come Alive

Each EmpowerED 3.2.1 features a brief summary of my musings about and learning from multiple disciplines as they apply to leadership in education. 


I asked my 13-year old son what would be a good topic for an EmpowerED 3.2.1, since he’s was at home learning and observing his parents working from home also. Without much thought he said, “core values” would be a good topic. I probed asking why and if this time of coronavirus shelter-in-place got him thinking about his core values. He gave pause and the teenage shrug. Last semester, he attended a graduate class I taught on Mission, Vision and Core Values and seemed intrigued. Interestingly, his current English teacher asked the students to draft a personal vision statement, which is an activity we do in my class. However, I told my son he needed to clarify his core values before a vision statement could be written. As a family, we did the values sort activity II included in an issue of Professional Practices titled “Marcia’s Musings on Leadership.” We were able to identify our top 10 core values. His comment this morning made this mamma proud, as somewhere in that teenage brain something I said resonated about the importance of core values. Anyway, I started thinking about the state of my own core values during this time of world crisis and how I can continue to feel and be centered with what’s important to me. Here’s where I landed.


3 Big Ideas


  1. As a leader (and a parent) you’re being watched all of the time. It is critical that we set an example by making sure our statements and actions are sending the desired message. People trust leaders when their actions match their words. James Kouzes and Barry Posner state that people will be inspired to follow you only if they find you and your message believable. Listen to them explain the characteristics of an admired leader in a YouTube clip titled Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It.” They found that four values were selected nearly 65% of the time over 20 years. These are:
    Honesty. Truthful, has integrity, is trustworthy, has character, is trusting;
    Competence. Capable, proficient, effective, gets the job done, professional;
    Inspiring. Uplifting, enthusiastic, energetic; and 
    Forward-looking. Visionary, foresighted, concerned about the future, sense of direction.
  2. Credibility matters. It turns out that most people are looking for a leader who is credible. People will be inspired to follow you only if they find you and your message believable. Make a T-chart for yourself. What does credibility look and sound like to you, your staff, your family? I see it simply as DWYSYWD (do what you say you will do), where “do”  is twice as present as “say”…think about this as your actions counting twice as much as your words. To learn more read DWYSYWD – “Doing What You Say You Will Doand watch this YouTube clip of Barry Posner on leadership and credibility.
  3. Making sure your values translate into your day-to-day activities is next once you’ve identified your values. Considering these areas of your day help ensure alignment of values and acts that build and maintain your leadership credibility. There are a couple of recent blogs that remind me to check in on my values. Interested? Read Harvard Business Review’sWorking Parents: Does Your Schedule Reflect Your Values?” and Inc’s7 Ways to Apply Your Personal Core Values in Daily Life 
    Calendars: How you choose to spend your time is the single clearest indicator of what’s important to you. If you say something is important, it had better show up in your calendar!
    Critical Incidents: Chance occurrences and unexpected intrusions (9/11, Coronavirus, hurricanes, etc.) often occur during times of stress or change. These incidents offer a great opportunity to teach important lessons about norms of behavior.
    Stories: This is how we pass along information from person to person and generation to generation. Stories set a mental map and help people relate to how things are done around here.
    Language: Leaders choose their words carefully to make sure people get the right message. They use metaphors and analogies to enhance communication. 
    Measurements: Measuring and providing feedback are essential to improved outcomes. 
    Rewards: The behaviors you reward, the people you recognize, and the accomplishments you celebrate send out signals about what is important to you. Make sure that if you say something is important, you recognize performance that demonstrates that value. 


Values are like fingerprints. Nobodies are the same but you leave them all over everything you do.”
Elvis Presley


“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”
– Roy E. Disney


1 Question

After sorting your values with others, what did you discover about yourself and them and why might it help you to learn that values of others are different from your own?


If you want to take a deep dive into core values, I invite you to read two additional issues of Professional Practices in which I wrote about core values:

Compasses and Cornerstones
Mission, Vision, and Core Values


About the Author: Marcia Baldanza is also the author of Professional Practices, a Just ASK Senior Consultant. and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech. Until recently she worked for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, where she was an Area Director for School Reform and Accountability; prior to that she was Director of Federal and State Programs.










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