It’s high time you finally declare your core values and stick to them

There is no doubt that one of the worst things a leader can be called is a wishy-washy flip-flopper. So isn’t it ironic that most of the people doing the name-calling haven’t declared their own values or definitively told their employees or customers what they stand for or believe in? Too busy bending the rules or chasing an elusive dream of having everyone like them, they fail to live their lives with conviction. Holding others to a high standard, they themselves are unremarkable.

Your core values are integral to your brand’s qualities. Knowing what’s essential to your soul will help you draw the line.

Successful corporate brands are built on core values and they constantly reinforce those values. They’ll illustrate their values in their logo; they’ll recite their values in their taglines; they’ll promote their values in their public relations efforts.

Just like corporate brands, effective business leaders sculpt their personal brands by the values they hold dear. What words speak of your personal value system, that metronome for personal behavior—what you stand for, what you want to live up to, what you consider most important to your inner life and well-being?

Quaker Oats products want you to know that they stand for old-fashioned, homespun American goodness. Their logo uses that familiar, friendly-looking Pilgrim to personify those values. Everybody knows that Nike is a synonym for an active lifestyle. Whole Foods, announced not long ago that its own line of 365 food products would never contain GMOs. It wants its customers to know where its values lie. Volvo values safety above all, and advertises itself that way.

My values have to do with empowerment, safety, integrity, and love. I feel the absolute best when these four values are operating in my life. I think I’m less than complete when any of them are compromised. I want to stand for these things and be known for them, and so I build these values into my personal brand.

Words that may help you identify what’s deeply meaningful in your life could include authenticity, generosity, honesty, success, kindness, loyalty, connection, courage, risk taking, inspiration, wisdom, contentment, knowledge, wealth, security, adventure, justice, freedom, optimism, spirituality and commitment.

Of these, what do you consider to be your core values, that is, the three or four most meaningful to you? Which values do you live by? Which would you defend with your dying breath? Core values are also “essential.” That is you feel you couldn’t live without them. And they are “universal,” which means that they apply in all circumstances for you, all the time.

Now ask yourself these two questions: How do I act out my core values every day? And how do I deny my value system?

For example, love is one of my core values. One of the ways I act out that value in my daily life is through my work, which I love; with my husband, whom I adore; and toward myself, by eating right and working out and keeping healthy. I would be denying these values if I began to take what’s so precious to me for granted, got sloppy with my work, ignore my husband, or stop taking care of myself. Another of my core values is empowerment, and I act that out by cheerleading my clients and giving myself no limits to meeting my potential. I would be denying this value if I became a hermit, or if I began to act as if there was something more important than being the best human being I can be.

To be seen as a strong leader, one that stands for his or her beliefs and has a voice that is heard clearly and rings true, you must declare your core values and work everyday not to compromise them. That’s because if all is gone tomorrow – if you left your job – shuttered your business or got let go – you’d still know who you are. You’d have your core. You’d have value.

Core values define who you are. If you don’t stand up for what you believe in, you won’t stand a chance.