Lead from Your Core Values: 3 Way to Get Ahead of the Competition

(Editor’s Note: This blog ties directly to The Honor Code—7 Core Behaviors for Honorable Leadership that can guide all leaders to honorable behavior. Download a free copy at

The headline on the cover of the May 2017 issue of Fast Company profoundly states: “Put your Values to Work.” That’s a great idea for leaders to consider and in fact was the intent behind Article 7 of The Honor Code we introduced in a series of blogs back in 2015.


Article 7 says –

“Live your values. Be faithful to your spiritual core, your conscience, and your deepest intuitions.”  [Tweet This]

Leaders Modeling Values

They say that values, mindsets, behaviors, and habits are caught more than taught. I believe that. Truly one of the greatest blessings I got from the years of hardships as a POW in Vietnam was living in the presence of courageous leaders who daily fought to remain faithful to their personal values and those of our organization.  They modeled honorable behavior and I “caught” some of their commitment; it made a difference in my life, then and now.

Granted, in the camps there weren’t many vices or normal everyday temptations to compromise our values, so we were protected in that respect.  Yet, every day for several years it was a battle to live up to our motto Return with Honor. In the camps living by our values was in essence our main goal and the focus of everything we did; it was the only way we were capable of achieving purpose and meaning.

Personal Values = Organizational Values

“As you have probably seen in your own experience, personal values inevitably drive organizational and team values.” [Tweet This]

Our organizational values were simple: be faithful to our country, our fellow POWs, and do our duty by resisting the exploitations of the enemy. These basics were summarized in our short six- article Military Code of Conduct which we had all memorized early in our training. We had clarity, we were committed, and we followed our leaders who acted on these values every day.

It was this singular focus on living and leading with honor that bound us together and galvanized our resistance against the enemy’s schemes to convince us to take the “easy way out.” The lines were clear; the enemy and consequences were obvious, and perhaps that made it easier for us to suffer and sacrifice to live by our values.

Three Valuable Lessons for All Leaders

The environment was unique, but I think there are some clear lessons we can extrapolate from that experience to help set yourself apart and excel in your work or industry –

  1. Clarify your values. What do you really believe?  Who are you? What do you stand for? Reflect on the foundation of your beliefs.  Consider your faith, your family teaching, your professional ethics, your patriotism, your sense of community. What are your non-negotiables? The Honor Code would be a good place to start.
  2. Commit and stand courageously.  Will you stand firm in the face of a busy schedule, unfair competition, the need to look good, the desire to meet legitimate desires for comfort and pleasure in ways that compromise your values? Recognize that your doubts and fears will take you out. Commit to suffer and sacrifice to remain faithful to your values.
  3. Act in congruence with who you are. Be true to yourself.  It’s not easy; we are humans and not firm and fixed.  We operate by ebbs and flows of our commitment. Fight the battle to keep your honor intact and when you fail, admit it and bounce back.

Be Inspired and Stay Connected 

Need some practical ways to maintain and fulfill your personal and organizational values? Here are a couple of important ones –

  • Inspiration is Important and Must Be Ongoing. Emotions are the energy that drives us to accomplish our deepest desires. Find your inspiration from various sources –
    • Spiritual Foundations – renew them and be true to your faith.
    • Family Relationships and Traditions of Your Heritage
    • Personal Development through Conversations, Books, Blogs, Podcasts, Events, and more. Are you authentically sharing with others to help them develop?
  • Stay Connected to People Who are Like-Minded.
    • Who is speaking into your life?
    • Do you have authentic relationships?
    • Be discerning. Don’t let those with negative values pull you down.

A frequent review of our values is crucial to actually living them out in the moment. Even then it’s always an ongoing battle because we have the weaknesses and temptations along with the tendency to rationalize that comes with our human nature. Please share your experiences in this area and do the favor of passing along a copy of The Honor Code to others. 


P.S. Want to watch Lee’s video coaching clip on this topic? Sign Up Free to receive in your email inbox. Your personal information is safe with us.


Next Step – Leadership Authenticity has Become a Game-Changer Between Those Teams that Excel or Fail

Having a set of strong personal and professional core values is the hinge point to inspire unity and energy for your team or organization.

Need a set of core values? Download a complimentary copy of The Honor Code.




Leading with HonorRecommended Resource – 14 Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton

In Lee Ellis’ award-winning 2012 release, Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, he shares the core lessons that enabled him and his comrades to return home with honor.

Purchase a copy from our Online Store or your favorite retailer such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble.




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