Reconnecting with Core Values in Turbulent Times

By Ashton Fandel of LeadingX2

As the strange cadence of this year continues, one might feel somewhat like a flag, flapping in the wind. The winds in October 2020 keep surging and shifting. We, as family members, friends, citizens, colleagues, and leaders, are being buffeted every which way. Turning, bending, snapping, to non-stop news and needs. Whenever a storm seems to die down, the possibility of an errant gust sweeping up our frayed edges keeps us tense. It is understandable to feel we are at the behest of this turbulence, passively reacting at best, and wearing thin over time. 

However, with a firmly planted pole, a flag stands strong despite the onslaught.

Similar to a flagpole, our core values are our central mooring. They shape the basis of who we are as leaders and inform our vision of our very best selves. With clear and strong core values, our choices, our ‘turning and bending,’ become less reactionary and more rooted in an intrinsic conviction.

As Kouzes and Posner write in The Leadership Challenge, “[Values] supply you with a compass by which to navigate the course of your daily life…The clearer you are about your values, the easier it is for you and everyone else to commit to the chosen path and stay on it.” When the winds are powerful, in times of crisis, recognizing and maintaining our core values is more essential than ever.

If you have your core values written down, now is the time to take them down off the wall, or out of the notebook, and give them a good look. If they’re not written down, pause and allow your core values to come to mind. Whether it’s Honest, Respectful, Excellent, Joyful, Empathetic…what jumps out as the most central value for you? What, in this challenging era, grounds you in the resounding sense of “Yes, this is how I want to be. 

Hold that word. Repeat it out loud. Let it buzz in your head and echo in your heart. And once you have it, allow intentional action to follow.

Recently, we at LeadingX2 facilitated a values exercise with a team, in which the members identified what their values look like in action. For the value of Kindness, they stated, “Proactively asks: How can I help?” as a behavior to uphold. “Integrates others’ input into important decisions” was specified for the team’s value of Inclusivity. Despite this challenging era, individuals were still ready and eager to commit to behaviors like these—because they stemmed from clear core values.

This week, if you find yourself at the end of your tether, facing difficult compromises, lacking the motivation to finish a project, or just losing focus—look to your top value. In holding that value close, how will you act? You might tell your manager that you truly cannot take on another task. You might swallow a snarky comment. You might put in an extra 15 minutes to prepare well for a meeting. You might dedicate the weekend to volunteering. You will likely find that values-based decisions garner powerful internal motivation to follow through.

When we act in accordance with our values, we are better, more trust-worthy leaders—both for ourselves and for those around us. It can be hard work to hold ourselves to these strong ideals, especially in volatile times. And yet, flags unfurl fully when the wind is most fierce; during a tempest is when others can most clearly see who we are, and what we stand for. Trust in the strength of a solidly staked pole to ground and guide you, as you 

Lead with your best self. 

  • Thank you, Dan! Would also be curious to see reflection prompts for clarifying one’s values, as well as how many to include in a personal charter/mission statement.

    With appreciation,


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