Today’s post is the featured article from the January 2013 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription

john-newSometimes you choose a focus. And sometimes a focus chooses you. I have never understood this more fully than when it comes to my focus on core values. As in building value with core values. I’m not sure I would have actually chosen core values as a focus. In some cases you don’t have a choice. You simply have a response. And it is quite different than choosing … for a response is a reaction to having been chosen. It might sound a little vague or confusing. Sometimes it can be.

And sometimes it’s not.

Usually “the choice” finds you right where you are … and simply waits for your response. For me, it wasn’t just another lunch along my journey of living my dream in the world of professional speaking. I suppose it could have been. Instead, it was one of those defining moments. I’m not sure Mac Andersen (founder of Simple Truths) or I had intended it to be. Most defining moments aren’t intended. They eventually just become apparent.

As a publisher, Mac had decided he wanted Simple Truths to do a book on “building value with core values.” He asked me if I would consider authoring such a book with them. He thought I was a good fit … which felt like a nice compliment whether it was intended or not. That was until I eventually said “yes” and sat in front of a blank computer screen to start writing.

The journey didn’t begin there. It was just where I took my first step.

And I didn’t respond there … because I had no idea a “choice” was in-play. Not to choose, but to be chosen. I just began to type … and focus. Focus can lead to clarity … and sometimes clarity reveals to you that some things are not real clear. As in the “black and white” kind of clear. Yet a persistent intuition pushes you forward into a complete fog as you are very slowly ushered towards a reality that a “choice” will soon be waiting your response.

And so it has been with my increasing laser focus on core values. As drafts and more drafts turned into an edited manuscript and eventually a book titled GOOD to the CORE, I had to individually come to grips with the question I had asked my readers … do you believe? In other words, do you believe core values really build value? I thought it was a question that deserved an honest answer. Ironically, I realized the answer resided within me … not within the question.

And the answer to the question resides in every leader as well.

It is not a choice. It is a response that this question awaits. And regardless of how you respond … it changes everything. Unfortunately, many in leadership positions never answer the question. Possibly because they have never been asked.

My response to the question was YES. And my “yes” led me to an evolving clarity that core values not only build value … but they are a leader’s most powerful resource in creating a community that is fully engaged and wired to genuinely serve. There is no question more deeply awaiting a leader’s response than this question: Do you believe core values build value? I suppose, in the end, no response proves to be a response. I would suggest … not a good one.

Last week, I stared at another blank computer screen. This screen looked exactly the same as the blank screen I faced as I began writing GOOD to the CORE. Yet it was different. This screen was the beginning of ROI: Return on Integrity. That screen wasn’t just the beginning of a new book. It marked the beginning of inspiring a movement of leaders building value with core values. Then, again, maybe it wasn’t the beginning of anything. Just the next step in responding to “the choice.”

Core values are not optional for leaders.

They are a leader’s greatest responsibility. And they are the seeds of a leader’s greatest potential. They are the choice … that demands a response. After multiple deeply honest discussions on the topic of core values and outlining the ROI book, some things have become clearer. ROI won’t be a “white paper” for followers, in positions of leadership, to find the documented proof that values build value. It will, rather, be a roadmap for real leaders committed to responding … and in doing so … creating the proof for others to follow.

The time has come for leaders to embrace the courage they need to respond … to lead in a valuable way!