Guest Post by Charles Stone

Every leader needs what I call “true north” values, core convictions we refuse to compromise even when external pressures tempt us to do so. Such values are like the difference between a compass and a gyrocompass. A simple compass points to true north because it relies on magnetic north. Unless, that is, you bring a magnet close to it. This post will help you clarify your true north values.

Even a small magnet can cause the compass to give wrong directions. Something external to it, the magnet, affects the north arrow so that it gives a false reading. Metaphorically, the magnet made it ‘compromise.’ For some so called ‘values,’ all it takes is criticism or the oppositional voice of a significant board member (an external force) to cause a leader to compromise.

In contrast to a compass, a gyrocompass best models core values. For navigation, ships use gyrocompasses, devices that combine a compass with a gyroscope. They find true north from the earth’s rotation which is navigationally more useful than magnetic north. Additionally, a gyrocompass’s strength lies in its ability to keep true north even if magnetic material is placed near it. In a parallel way, these deeply imbedded values are not those we glibly speak about. Rather, they are ones that stand up under severe external or internal circumstances that would tempt us to compromise.

If you’ve never crafted your values, take a half-day retreat and use these questions to help you define them. Write down 5-10 answers for each category below.

  1. Delights:
    • “What truly delights you?
    • What do you love doing?
    • What do you do that you enjoy so much that you seem to lose track of time when you do it?”
  2. Past:
    • When you were a kid/in high school/in college, what was fun?
    • Where did you get your joy?
    • What did you like doing more than anything else?
  3. Peak Performance: Think of peak moments in your life or career, those moments when you feel that you did your very best work or made your greatest contribution or difference.
    • Why were those peak moments?
    • What was true about you?
    • What was ignited in your soul?
  4. Heroes: Think of those in your past or present that you’d consider your heroes.
    • What qualities about them prompted you to put them on your list?
  5. Input from others:
    • What have other said are your strengths and virtues?
  6. Scripture:
    • What key Characters in the Bible have meant the most to you and why?
  7. Inventories: 

When you do this exercise you’ll have seven lists of ten or less themes/words per list. You’ve done a lot of great work. Now it’s time to thoughtfully begin combining the lists into one final list of ten or so words and phrases. That final list will give you a great idea about your unique gyrocompass values.

Wordsmith that final list into phrases or concepts that resonate with you. Commit to live out these values. Finally, record these in a way that will remind you to often revisit them. For example, each Monday when I review my prior week and plan my upcoming one, I review mine.

When pressure tempts you to compromise, whether to people please, veer from your convictions, or change your vision, remember your gyrocompass values. Stand on them in the face of opposition, relating to others with grace and kindness. Continue to keep them before you. Be open to modifying them over time.

What questions would you add to this list?

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, and the founder of StoneWell Ministries, a pastor coaching and church consulting ministry. He is the author of four books including, “People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership” , and his most recent book, “Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry”


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One thought on “Ask Yourself these 7 Simple Questions to Clarify your Personal Values

  1. Sandi Geldenhuys says:

    I would add spiritual formation questions such as:
    1. How has God led you in terms of pursuing His will for your life? (Sometimes where God leads us is not always in line with the things we desire.)
    2. What key events in your life have led to significant change of direction or spiritual growth? What did you learn about yourself in terms of your values and passions in these transitions?
    3. What has God spoken over your life through the affirmation or prophetic words of mature leaders in your life?

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