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The Principle-Driven Life


The Principle-Driven Life

What principles do you live by? This question stumps a lot of people, leaders included. You may believe you live a principle-driven life, but how often do you pause to consider what those principles are and whether they operate in concert?

Principle-driven leaders are better equipped to handle difficulties with confidence and poise. They know themselves well—well enough not to let short-term interests or needs dictate their actions. And yet great leaders often get their principles from others.

Gurus like Stephen Covey and Deepak Chopra offer tempting templates of principles or principle-driven habits.

Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People:

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Habit 6: Synergize
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Deepak Chopra’s Seven Principles of Manifesting Your Desires:

  1. See the universe as an extension of yourself
  2. Evolve through the mirror of relationship
  3. Understand that intention has infinite organizing power
  4. Free yourself from emotional turbulence
  5. Harness the masculine and the feminine in your own being
  6. Never ignore a coincidence
  7. Always stay grounded and centered in yourself

These templates are helpful and good places to start, to be sure. But why not push further and develop a list of principles that are uniquely your own. Who better to guide you than you?

Seven Questions to Discover Your Own Principles

  1. What advice do you find yourself giving most often to othersespecially those who are really struggling?
  2. Who are or have been the top five influential people or organizations (grandparents, parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, friends, religious leaders, churches, schools) of your life?
  3. How exactly did they influence you—positively and/or negatively?
  4. What principles have you decided to live by given the nature of their influence?
  5. When do you find it easiest to abide by these principles, and why?
  6. When do you tend to deviate from these principles, and why?
  7. How might you change your behavior or the principles, so that they’re in better alignment?

Once you’ve answered these seven questions, craft a revised list of principles that you want to live by. Test each by asking, “Is it true–always and in every situation?” Then make sure the principle aligns with your core values. Now you’re ready to lead a principled life.




About the Author

Gary Cohen is a highly-skilled Executive Coach, Leadership Author, Trainer, and International Keynote Speaker. His clients range from entrepreneurial CEOs of the nation’s fastest-growing companies to executives of global 100 companies. He differentiates himself from traditional (psycho/therapeutic) executive coaches by bringing a vast amount of business experience as a former Founder / President of one the Nation’s Fastest growing companies. He is the author of Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions (McGraw Hill). Gary B. Cohen Full Bio

  • John Wade

    Principles – or values – are a great way to define an individual, and an organisation, too. This is a great article outlining a practical way to help reach those definitions.

    For me, though, I would add the need to link ‘values’ and ‘principles’ to an overall mission. They’re symbiotic in so many ways: each helps define the other. However, again personally and for my clients, I strongly recommend them to codify an overall purpose to their existence – corporately or individually – as a context for the values to be lived by.

    My triumvirate is completed by having people agree a set of acceptable and desired behaviours, which demonstrate their overall mission/purpose with their stated principles/values in such an obvious way that it becomes the norm. Or, the culture…

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