January 5, 2018

What Are Your Personal Core Values?


What Are Your Personal Core Values?

What are your personal core values? On the last day of 2017, former FBI director, James Comey, sent out a message loud and clear on Twitter – hoping for more ethical leadership focused on truth and lasting values in 2018.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Ethical Leadership, especially within our corporate cultures.  The first step to achieving sustainable and effective leadership focused on ethics requires a leader to identify his/her core values.

So, how is that done?  Are we all supposed to inherently be aware of our core values or is there a process within which we can hone in on our internal value system and identify which core values motivate and inspire our every action, our words, our thoughts, our behavior.  Though there are many methods, I have found one simple exercise that, if done with thought and attention, can help any executive, leader, or middle management assess his/her core value system and come out with a list of fundamental principles.

As I have noted before, the Center for Ethical Leadership led by Dr. Bill Grace is a leader in these types of workshops.  Over a decade ago, I was first introduced to Grace’s “Core Values Exercise.”  In 2004, my core values were likely quite different than now in 2018.  As our experiences shape us to grow, we should continue to assess our underlying motivations and value principles.   Take the below exercise to evaluate what your personal core values are.

Personal Core Values Assessment


Step 1: Review the personal core values below. Add any values to the list you’d like.
Step 2: Checkmark eight values that are important to you. Be completely truthful with yourself.
Step 3: Reduce your choices to five values.
Step 4: Reduce your choices again to three values.
Step 5: Reduce your choices to a final two values. These two values form your core values.

Personal Core Values:


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So how did you do?

Here’s what I did: I first put a star next to all the values that I believed were important.  I wrote in 4 additional values that were not in the list, but I believed were critically important in my life in the blank spaces.  My additions were Gratitude, Ownership, Transparency, and Selfless Service.  Then, I had to narrow to 8, then 5, then 3, then 2.  Ultimately, as I reviewed each value or principle, I faced the difficult decision of grouping several values into one representative word.  I learned that “eliminating” a value from my personal core values list did not mean I reduced the importance of the value in my life, but rather that it could still be represented in my definition of my core values, as I deem it to be.  This exercise is highly personal and each person understands a particular word differently, based on his/her experiences and upbringing.  For example, the word “wealth” can have distinct meaning depending on the individual being asked to define the word.   For me, “Ownership and Transparency” are the top of my Core Values list.  Of course, family, friendship, integrity, love and others are vitally important to my life, but I realized that my life decisions and behavioral actions are led by these two values.

In order to achieve Ethical Leadership as James Comey and others hope for in 2018, leaders and executives need to take the time to first do a simple exercise such as this one.  Whether it is led by a consultant with other types of conversation, role-playing, and exercises – or simply sitting in an office alone with the mindset and commitment to focus on true self-assessment.  Once a leader knows her values, she can work to build a long-term sustainable mission statement that embodies those core values for not only for each individual, but also the entire organization.  Ethics and compliance training, creating incentive structures properly structured with ethics and compliance objectives, and ethical decision-making are all areas that organizations and global multinationals will need to address in 2018.  Why not start with discovering your personal core values first?


Rashmi Airan‘s mission is to share the need for ethical vigilance and to inspire you to make good ethical choices in all areas of your life. Rashmi is an ethics speaker and consultant fighting to create a culture of conversation and bring ethical issues in business to light, to promote integrity, to enhance commitment to fiduciary duty, to build ethical leadership, and to shift the paradigm of ethics standards through ethics training.

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