“For values or guiding principles to be truly effective, they have to be verbs. It’s not “integrity,” it’s “always do the right thing.” It’s not “innovation,” it’s “look at the problem from a different angle.” Articulating our values as verbs gives us a clear idea – we have a clear idea of how to act in any situation.” – Simon Sinek
We all have freedom of speech, choice and action.
I get it!
But when do our responsibilities outweigh our freedom to do and say what we want?
Our right to self-expression was the conversation my friends and I were having as we debated the consequences of some of our public officials’ statements and actions.
This week we continue our spirited discussion. Be part of the conversation as we explore if leaders who hold positions to serve, protect or represent all community members have the right to act upon their personal beliefs.
With great power comes great responsibility. – Voltaire
This famous quote by Voltaire rings so true in a time when abuses of power are so prevalent. One only has to look at the news headlines for the number of people in public office, in high positions using their office to espouse their personal beliefs. This unchecked positional power can lead to abuse, exclusion, harm and deny access to those individuals a leader once committed to serving and protecting. As a result, there are no boundaries to what some leaders believe they can say when left unchecked. In truth, when you step into a public position, you no longer only represent your personal opinion. Instead, you represent the organization and diverse people with various beliefs. Your responsibility is to protect every citizen’s rights, privileges, and safety. In other words, regardless of your personal opinion or beliefs, your responsibility is to treat every citizen with respect and ensure their rights are protected.
While I understand that we all have the right to express our ideas and opinions without censorship or fear of retribution, this freedom MUST come with implied responsibility when assuming public office. As a leader, you must be accountable for your actions because you set the tone and example for whomever you are responsible.
Why Organizations and Leaders Must Have A GPS
The reality is we all come to our workplaces with our judgements, beliefs, biases, and stereotypes. Your experiences form those beliefs, and your values dictate what you think is good or bad, what is right or wrong, what is important, and so on. When an organization has a list of Guiding Principles, that GPS allows the leader to make values-based decisions and choices. Guiding Principles help you stay focused on what’s important. They keep you in alignment with the organization’s values, regardless of the circumstances. A clearly expressed GPS keeps you moving in the right direction and allows you to do what is difficult: rather than popular or easy. When navigating issues that evoke bias or prejudice, having a GPS is essential. Guiding Principles are the key to making sound decisions when faced with issues related to power and privilege, as these decisions often activate our fears, biases and need to maintain control. Without the guidance of a GPS, coercion and manipulation are often used to exclude or even oppress others.
Great leaders know their GPS is the anchor and the foundation of their leadership. Leaders who operate from a GPS create positive team cultures and environments of clarity and consistency. Difficult decisions are more often accepted because team members trust the backdrop of a GPS. By making guiding principles clear, they eventually become the principles of a team. GPS ultimately creates an environment where accountability becomes the norm. Aligning values with behaviors is an essential part of outstanding leadership.
People power organizations. Although the organization has a responsibility to lead from the top down, there is also a responsibility for each person to understand that the first person they must lead is themselves. We each must become the model for what we expect.
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