What do you stand for? This is a question all leaders should able to answer fairly easily but most struggle with addressing. I’ve been in many organizations where if you asked the question, “What does this business stand for,” you would get blank stares. Values are the building blocks of any organization. Without a common set of beliefs and principles, a company is like a ship without a rudder – adrift in a sea of individual interpretation and situational experience. It has never been just about making money but how you make your money that matters the most. And, the how involves many issues such as the way you treat your customers, employees, vendors, the environment, etc.
John Mellencamp has a great line in one of his songs that goes, “you’ve got to stand for something, or your gonna fall for anything…” In my experience working with leaders in both the for profit and no profit sectors, this couldn’t be more true. There is nothing more frustrating than working with someone who is not sure what he/she believes in and/or the difference they want to make in the world. By the way, making more money should be an outcome of doing something else well not the sole objective. I can sometimes quibble with what people come up with but it is very helpful and informative if I know what someone values and where they stand. A ship without a rudder will drift anywhere.
The more success you have the more temptations will come your way. It’s easy to start to think of yourself as different or special when you outperform your peers. You may begin to rationalize that the same basic moral rules don’t apply to you, but they do. Character is certainly forged in the fires of adversity. However, you also learn a lot about someone’s character when everything seems to go their way. The saying goes “if you want to know who someone truly is then give them money and power.”
I watched an interesting movie last night called The Way. It was written and directed by Emilio Estevez and stars his father Martin Sheen. In the movie a straight-laced somewhat taciturn father has to cope with the tragic loss of his 40 year old free-spirited son. The event took place while he was beginning a spiritual trek on “The Way of St. James” or “Camino de Santiago” which is an 800 kilometer pilgrimage (hike) through France and Spain to the burial place of Saint James. The father decides to complete the journey his son started and learns alot about himself and life along the way. As with most of his acting roles, it was a powerful and thoughtful performance by Martin Sheen.
A common thread through most generally accepted philosophies of life and/or spiritual belief systems is the concept of happiness being directly related to our impact on others not just how they effect us. We need to embrace that fact that we coexist with other human beings and make choices each and every day about how we want these interactions to go.