WHY Core Values?

Values impact every aspect of our life and work. We need to develop and consistently anchor back to our shared values. I don’t know how we can lead – at least not influentially – any other way.

We often refer to our core values in general, but cannot readily put words to them. So here’s your challenge – should you choose to accept it. Name your core values. Put words to them. Cement it.


What are your 3-5 core values?

List them (just a word or short phrase) and email them to a friend or colleague. If you can readily name yours, the email will take just a minute. If it takes you some time to think of them, then it’s time best spent!

Here are some reasons why it matters that I can actually name my core values:

  1. I’m using and modeling them – whether I know it or not. Every decision, word and action communicates my core values.
  2. They engender trust. We build trust when we are honest and full of integrity. That means there is alignment between what we believe, say and do – consistently. Without trust we are doomed.
  3. They move our important work forward. What we celebrate, measure and confront communicates what we value – and that’s what gets done.
  4. They are WHY I do what I do. They are what drives me; they’re my moral imperative.
  5. Without them, I’m not actually leading (serving, influencing) at all. Leadership involves articulating values and developing a vision for the future.
  6. They inspire me to overcome obstacles. When we have a big enough WHY, we will always figure out the HOW.
  7. They bring unity. When we have consensus around core values we can endure all kinds of disagreement about strategy without falling apart as a team.
  8. They keep me from micromanaging. With an agreed upon destination, there’s room for empowerment, creativity and innovation in the journey.
  9. They make expectations clear. They define parameters.
  10. I hire for them. We can teach the other stuff.
  11. They give me courage. They compel me to take action even when it’s hard, and they show me where to draw a line in the sand.
  12. We institutionalize them. They inform policy, processes, systems, structures…
  13. They shape culture. HOW we do things is as important as WHAT we do.
  14. They are my moral compass. We make all kinds of moral and ethical decisions that policy, laws and regulations don’t touch.
  15. They determine and prioritize how I use resources – time, money and human capital.
  16. I live and work with more passion, energy, fulfillment and authenticity.

Are you stumped? Here are some ways to help you name your core values.

  •  Identify around 20 words from the list below that are particularly important to you. (You can add any that are not on the list.) To narrow your selection, cluster those together and identify a word/short phrase that captures the meaning of each cluster of words so that you have approximately 3-5 core values.


  • Identify 20 words from the list below that are particularly important to you. Narrow that list to 10. Narrow that list to 3-5.

(Selecting 3-5 core values is recommended. To be honest – since it is one of my core values – I have 7. Five out of my 7 are not listed here.)

Core Values List
Core Values List