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Your Values, Your True North

September 03, 2017

You must have heard people say “I value this item so much” or “I value this person so much”. You might also have said something like, “Paul has no values”. Question is, what do people mean, or what did you mean when you uttered those words?

Well, let’s first look at the definition of the word “Value” according to one online dictionary.


1.The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something. E.g. "your support is of great value"

2.A person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life. E.g. "they internalize their parents' rules and values"


1.Estimate the monetary worth of (something). E.g. "his estate was valued at $345,000"

2.Consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; E.g. "she had come to value her privacy and independence"

Today, I am going to focus on the second definition under the Noun section i.e. a person’s principles or standards of behavior.

I grew up seeing my mum cooking with a certain cooking oil called Kasuku. I also grew up showering with Cussons Imperial Leather Soap (the ivory colored one). It is no wonder then that when I started life on my own, I used to go to the supermarket to buy the same stuff I grew up seeing at home. Even steel wool, there’s a certain brand (and size!) I used to buy. Same case applies to salt; I used to purchase a certain brand of salt. When I graduated to perfumes and body lotions, I automatically picked up the same stuff that my mum used to use those days; anyone of you remember some perfume called poison? And some lotion called Binti el Sudan? Yes, I used to use that stuff because I found my mum using that.

The same case applies to habits.

I grew up seeing my Mum going to a certain church and being her daughter, I would accompany her to the same church until eventually, I continued on my own even after leaving her nest. I also picked up a few of her habits such as collecting plastic paper bags. I’d get one big paper bag and put in it other paper bags for future use. To date I still do this and she does too, but now that there is a plastic paper ban in Kenya, I wonder what she will be collecting. Another habit I picked up from her was blowing my nose while taking a shower. Surprisingly, my son has also picked up this habit  too.

So how come I picked these habits from my mum? Was she sitting me down and telling me what to do? In some cases yes but in others no. I acquired them through observation, the good and the bad. It is not a wonder then that people who know my mum and know me tend to say I behave like my mum in some ways.

This does not only happen in the family setup, it also happens in the office setup. Habits, belief systems or values as you would call them are not necessarily things you teach in a classroom. Actually, these are principles that are transferred to people (through “osmosis” maybe?), by observing the things you see the people around you doing. In most cases, you pick them up unconsciously and over time, they become you.

If this is the case, then as a leader why are you wondering why your team members have no value (pun intended) for time, if you yourself have a challenge in the same area? Why are you wondering why your team is demotivated, while you yourself are exuding the same demotivation? Why are you wondering why your team is corrupt, while you yourself are the king or queen of 10%? If as a managing director you have a “closed-door” policy, why then do you expect the managers under you to have an open-door policy? If you yourself are more of a “talker” than a “doer” how do you expect your leaders to do more than you do? If you are a dictator, how then do you expect your leaders to be any different?

My point is, you attract what you are. If you have sound values, then you will attract people who will have the same values. Either they will come to you with the same values, or they will adopt your values and make them their own. So the next time you see your team behaving funny, ask yourself this one question, “am I leading by example, or am a just a leader by words?”  

Same case applies to your household. If you see things not going as they should, ask yourself this one question, “whose values have my people assimilated? Are they mine or whose are they emulating?” If they are your values, then you need to find a way of rectifying yourself fast and first, before you can expect to have them change their ways.  To the ladies out there listen to me; your children follow your values in relation to how you relate with and to your house girls. If you show disrespect to them and treat them with disrespect your children will do the same too. The sad part is that because you yourself mistreat house girls, you will not see anything wrong with how your children are mistreating the house girls too. This becomes a big problem up to the point the children grow up and move on to their own homes, and the trend continues.  

To fathers out there, if you are a person who shouts to your wife and to the workers in your compound, then you can rest assured that your sons will do the same too.  Why? Because you are their role models and whatever daddy says or does must be right for them to do!

My challenge is to everyone reading this article today; what kind of values do you have? What values do you spread around? What are people learning from you? Are you a good example? Are you a good role model? What kind of future leaders are you bringing up in your household? What kind of managers are you grooming in your organization?

My parting shot to you today is this; before you can fault anybody else within your space for not being who you thought they should be, please check yourself and see whether you have been a good role model to them.

Remember, your values are your moral compass. Question is, is your compass taking you to the right direction? Is it set on “True North?”

Be Ignited. Be Inspired. Be Influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.


PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 3rd of September, 2017, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words". 




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