The 5 Core Values That All Great Leaders Have

Guest Post by Shawn Vij

The leaders of all organizations have a number of things in common. They set the tone for the entire company, determine what it stands for and make sure the business stays on course. But the best of the best go farther. They’re strong, authentic, admirable leaders with deep core values — and they walk the talk. One recent example is Starbuck’s Executive Chairman Howard Schultz, who wrote a searing Op-Ed in The Financial Times, arguing that leaders have a moral obligation to see themselves as part of the bigger picture. His was one of the clearest voices in business to condemn the divisive attacks in Charlottesville.

Having strong core values and making sure one’s actions and one’s business aligns with them has a profoundly healthy and positive influence on an organization. There are five key values that outstanding leaders share, regardless of industry or company size. Follow them, and you’ll become a leader who makes headlines — for the right reasons.

Shawn Vij Core Values

Here, the five values that great leaders share:

October: The Monk and The Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living

by Randy Komisar

Book Description

“What would you be willing to do for the rest of your life…? It’s a question most of us consider only hypothetically-opting instead to “do what we have to do” to earn a living. But in the critically acclaimed bestseller “The Monk and the Riddle”, entrepreneurial sage Randy Komisar asks us to answer it for real. The book’s timeless advice – to make work pay not just in cash, but in experience, satisfaction, and joy – will be embraced by anyone who wants success to come not just from what they do, but from who they are.At once a fictional tale of Komisar’s encounters with a would-be entrepreneur and a personal account of how Komisar found meaning not in work’s rewards but in work itself, the book illustrates what’s wrong with the mainstream thinking that we should sacrifice our lives to make a living.”

Discussion Questions

Book Club Review

Thanks for being a part of the Modern Leadership Monthly Book Club. If you happened upon this page and are not a member you can join for free here .

The book club is designed to explore books that will help us on our leadership journey. It is a part of the Modern Leadership Podcast where we breakdown a book weekly in each episode. You can catch the podcast here.

This month’s book is: The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living by Randy Komisar

August: The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness

by Steve Peters

Book Description

“Do you sabotage your own happiness and success? Are you struggling to make sense of yourself? Do your emotions sometimes dictate your life?
Dr. Steve Peters explains that we all have a being within our minds that can wreak havoc on every aspect of our lives—be it business or personal. He calls this being “the chimp,” and it can work either for you or against you. The challenge comes when we try to tame the chimp, and persuade it to do our bidding.

The Chimp Paradox contains an incredibly powerful mind management model that can help you be happier and healthier, increase your confidence, and become a more successful person. This book will help you to:
—Recognize how your mind is working
—Understand and manage your emotions and thoughts
—Manage yourself and become the person you would like to be

Dr. Peters explains the struggle that takes place within your mind and then shows you how to apply this understanding. Once you’re armed with this new knowledge, you will be able to utilize your chimp for good, rather than letting your chimp run rampant with its own agenda.”

Book Club Review

Thanks for being a part of the Modern Leadership Monthly Book Club. If you happened upon this page and are not a member you can join for free here .

The book club is designed to explore books that will help us on our leadership journey. It is a part of the Modern Leadership Podcast where we breakdown a book weekly in each episode. You can catch the podcast here.

This month’s book is: The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness by Steve Peters

July: Disrupt Yourself

by Whitney Johnson

Book Description

“Thinkers50 Management Thinker of 2015 Whitney Johnson wants you to consider this simple, yet powerful, idea: disruptive companies and ideas upend markets by doing something truly different–they see a need, an empty space waiting to be filled, and they dare to create something for which a market may not yet exist.  As president and cofounder of Rose Park Advisors’ Disruptive Innovation Fund with Clayton Christensen, Johnson used the theory of disruptive innovation to invest in publicly traded stocks and private early-stage companies. In Disrupt Yourself, she helps you understand how the frameworks of disruptive innovation can apply to your particular path, whether you are:  a self-starter ready to make a disruptive pivot in your business a high-potential individual charting your career trajectory a manager looking to instill innovative thinking amongst your team a leader facing industry changes that make for an uncertain future  We are living in an era of accelerating disruption; no one is immune. Johnson makes the compelling case that managing the S-curve waves of learning and mastery is a requisite skill for the future. If you want to be successful in unexpected ways, follow your own disruptive path. Dare to innovate. Do something astonishing. Disrupt yourself.”

Book Club Review

3 Leadership Lessons Taught by Mr Miyagi

Why it is crucial to find the right coach

Mr Miyagi

When I was six, Columbia Pictures released the original Karate Kid movie. I loved it, and used my newly learned karate skills to punish the neighbors fence. (oops!)

I now have a six- year-old. The Karate Kid has been on my mind this week. (yikes)

I started playing hockey my freshman year high school. I was terrible. I could barely stand. I spent more time crashing over the boards than celebrating goals. I can’t even remember my first goal, probably an accidental redirection off my stick, between my legs.

But I do remember my first coach. Bill Miller. He was a great guy. Loved hockey, loved the thrill of victory, but mostly loved seeing the development of hockey players.

Say “No” with Respect

11 Steps to Softening the “No”

Say No with Respect

My phone rings and I frown. “Not him!” Does this ever happen to you? True story, this just happened to me. I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling the way that I was. I like the caller, we get along very well and have a lot of similar interests, but for some reason, I felt an urge to not pick up the phone. How do you say “no” with respect?

In retrospect, it wasn’t him, it was his requests. Every time we talk he has something he “needs” my help on. And because I like and respect him, I have a hard time (ok impossible time) saying “no”; everything from relationship advice and moving furniture to last minute rides and finishing projects at work.

Boundaries are tricky aren’t they?

Even when you determine that saying “no” is the right decision, it still requires actually saying “no”. How do we make saying “no” a little bit easier?

Say No with Respect

11 steps to softening the “no”:

  1. Get to know your “yes”- Before you can get really good at declining offers you need to understand what you want to say “yes” to. What are the things in your life that take priority and then say “yes” to those first. Otherwise you may end up saying “no” them by default.
  2. Practice- The first time you say “no” you may find it difficult, but as you work on it and gain more experience it will become easier. Start with small inconsequential requests and move on to larger requests as you develop.
  3. Listen to the request fully and respectfully- Give the person making the request the opportunity to fully articulate the need.
  4. Pause before responding to any request- Take a few moments to think about what is being asked and evaluate it against your other commitments and responsibilities. Determine if it is a “should” or a “could”. I have a friend who never agrees to anything immediately when asked. Her response is always “let me check on a few things and get back to you”. This gives her the opportunity to fully vet each request and when she does accept a request she is fully committed.
  5. Simply say “no” (or as simply as possible)- When you determine that you cannot accept a request respond with a clear decline. Do not try to soften the response by being vague or cryptic. Either you can or you cannot do what is requested.
  6. Recognize your time is your time and it is valuable- Each request is taking something from you, your time, and that has value to it. Know your priorities and what you can realistically accept.
  7. When appropriate give a brief reason for declining- It is important to be honest and when appropriate you can share why you are unable to accept the request. People will respect your directness.
  8. But don’t feel obligated to explain- You are in control of your life and your reasons for declining are your own. You do not need to justify or be confrontational when you decline.
  9. Script it out- When you know a specific unrealistic request is coming you can prepare by writing out a response ahead of time. Or you can respond to a request through email or text which will give you a chance to fine tune and wordsmith your response.
  10. Have alternatives- A great way to decline a request is to couple that “no” with alternative options. Maybe you cannot help but could Sally?
  11. Finally, stay firm- Once you have made a decision stand your ground and stay committed. A good decision made after deliberation shouldn’t be changed in the heat of the moment.

Whatever steps you choose and use know that you are making a decision for yourself to prioritize what is important to you. Nobody has control or power over that. Say “no”…firmly, frequently and with respect.

June: H3 Leadership: Be Humble, Stay Hungry and Hustle

by Brad Lomenick

Book Description

“IH3 Leadership, Brad Lomenick shares his hard-earned insights from more than two decades of work alongside thought-leaders such as Jim Collins and Malcom Gladwell, Fortune 500 CEOs, and start-up entrepreneurs. He categorizes twenty essential leadership habits organized into three distinct filters he calls “the 3 Hs”: Humble (Who am I?), Hungry (Where do I want to go?), and Hustle (How will I get there?). These powerful words describe the leader who is willing to work hard, get it done, and make sure it’s not about him or her; it’s about the leader who knows that influence is about developing the right habits for success. Lomenick provides a simple but effective guide to help one lead well in whatever capacity he or she may be in.”

Book Club Review

Thanks for being a part of the Modern Leadership Monthly Book Club. If you happened upon this page and are not a member you can join for free here .

The book club is designed to explore books that will help us on our leadership journey. It is a part of the Modern Leadership Podcast where we breakdown a book weekly in each episode. You can catch the podcast here.

This month’s book is H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle by Brad Lomenick

The Immediate Impact of a Trusted Coach

The ROI is Incomparable

Trusted Coach

If you read last week’s blog post than you already know about the fishing, the fireworks, the creek, the mud, the upset dad. My weeklong trip to Northern Saskatchewan wasn’t as relaxing as the brochure promised.

Thankfully, the truck came out, we got it cleaned up and we actually caught some pretty decent fish. If you didn’t read it you can here.

But, the story can’t end there.

Because, just like our goals, even after we get back on track, there can be detours, and there usually are. It is not all smooth sailing to goal success, right?

After a week of fishing, it was time to drive back home. A short 24-hour jaunt. The group split into three vehicles, me driving the now famous mud truck filled with the young folks. The “adults” took the other cars.

The plan was a direct trip back, all 24 hours, stopping only for gas. I got out ahead of the group, but thought I was in the back. Uh-oh. I sped up little by little trying to catch up to the group behind me.

Trusted Coach

Until… I ran out of gas.

Fortunately, I found the only freeway ramp inside 20 miles and coasted right up to the gas pump.

Unfortunately, it was 5:30am, the gas station was closed, and the folks with money, cash and credit cards, were not there.

Twice within a week I found myself in trouble. The difference was I didn’t cause this diversion.

Sometimes this happens in our goals. We handle and account for all the distractions and diversions of our own creation, but sometimes things just happen beyond our control and then, Bam! We are back off track. What do we do now?

Luck, miracles, and a helping hand.

Somehow, the adult’s truck, the one I thought was ahead of us, pulled to the side of the freeway to wait. You see, they also thought we were behind them; hey, it was o’ dark 30 give us a break. They pulled over to let us catch up knowing we would be needing gas, as were they.

We ran up, met them, got the credit card, filled the tank and made it home. The end. (Of this story.)

Trusted Coach


When it comes to goals, and we find that difficult times arise, I find the best way to get through the distraction is enlist the support of a helping hand.

Without the credit card it would have been impossible for us to complete the journey.

Likewise, without mentors, masterminds and accountability it is impossible for us to make it through to the end of our goals. We can try to make it on our own, but the reality is most obstacles are easier to overcome with assistance. Mentors can take us to higher levels FASTER than we can go without them.

Look at every famous athlete: performance coach, every successful actor: director, every popular singer/performer: voice coach, and every successful CEO: mentor. Coaching, mentoring, mastermind groups and accountability partners are imperative to your successful journey.

If you don’t have someone holding you accountable to your goals, assisting you when you run out of gas, energy/motivation, or mentoring you through tough times, you need to.

Promise: Nothing in your business and life will have a more immediate impact on your success or a larger ROI than working with a coach.

I Never Reached My Goal Because of Fireworks

9 Strategies to Get Your Goals Back on Track

My Goal Truck in Mud

Do you ever feel like you are just spinning your wheels? You set a goal, you have some big plans, you start down the road and then BAM! Sidetracked, or worse…. stuck.

The mud stuck truck.

A few years back, I went fishing up in Northern Saskatchewan with my dad. I make it sound like I am a big fisherman, I am not. I am terrible, impatient, loud and I bore easily. But a week away from the city would do me well so I went.

The group we went with are of opposite me. They love fishing, rising early, paddling out and sitting in silence for hours. It didn’t take long for me to get bored.

So, I came up with a win-win. I’d take the truck, drive the 50 miles back to town and get some milk and cereal for breakfast. They would sit silently and fish; win-win. So, I took off, on my own, in to town.

I didn’t make it. I got distracted.

Heading down the highway I saw a sign directing me to a firework factory (angels might have been singing in silhouette over the sign). I couldn’t pass it up. So, off I went in search of explosives. As I went deeper into the surrounding forest, I was faced with an adventure; if you define adventure as what you get into when not doing what you’re supposed to.

The trail took a sharp right and headed down the steep side of a hill. A little leftover rain made the road muddy and I slid to the bottom. Hello little stream. Well, it looked little.

As I slid into the stream, my truck, actually my dad’s truck, sunk about a foot deep. I gave it some gas and lost another foot. Out of frustration I gassed it again and found water at the bottom of my doors. I was really in trouble.

Do you ever find yourself in a similar situation in life?

You set a goal: lose weight, get a date, start your business, write a book or close a new deal; then set off towards completion, excited and ready.

But along the way something seemingly better jumps out, pizza, Netflix, karaoke night?

And Bam! Sidetracked and stuck in a stream.

Out of frustration you spin your wheels: buy new workout shoes, buy a book writing class, or rewrite your goals.

Eventually you find yourself stuck, up to your doors, no closer to your goal and lost. You feel alone, cutoff or worse, a failure.

What do you do?

First, recognize what got you off path. Acknowledge. What is your “firework factory”? The reality is, the road to success is loaded with enticing diversions. The road to success is hard, fireworks are awesome and that is how it begins.

The first step to getting, and staying, on track is to know the detours, diversions and temptations. Recognize what obstacles you face.

It continues…

After realizing that spinning my tires was…. well, spinning my tires and getting me more stuck, I had to come up with a plan.

I jumped out into the muddy creek and started digging out each wheel. Why didn’t I call for help? I was way out in the forest in Northern Saskatchewan. It was just me and the chipmunks.

After digging out I stuffed branches, leaves, and grass from the creek back into the holes. I climbed back into the truck, put it in neutral, revved and popped the clutch. I moved about a foot, repeated, and slowly crawled through the creek.

Just as darkness began to settle, covered head to foot in mud, both me and the truck, and exhausted, I reached the solid side and got out.

It was too late, and I was too tired, to head to town so I just returned to the lake and admitted my mistake.

What did I learn and how can you apply it to your goals.

Mud Stuck My Goal Truck

9 strategies to get back on track

  1. Recognize you are off path. The first step always involves admitting to yourself that you have a problem J
  2. You can’t panic: You may be way out of cell range and all alone but you need to keep a handle on it emotionally. It hurts to get off track from your goals. The guilt, the embarrassment, the wasted hours. But panicking does not help, it further hurts.
  3. Hard work: Look, we all get off course, and the further off you get, the harder it is to get back on. If you really want to succeed you must put in the time. And sometimes that means digging out your wheels in the mud and muck. Get back on track with your goals by putting in the time to catch up to where you should be.
  4. Creativity: Stuffing branches and leaves under the tires for traction and then popping the clutch wasn’t in any manual. In fact, most auto folks would recommend against it. But I was desperate, and desperate times call for creative measures; you like how I did that? Look at your goals and what caused you to veer off. Can you think of a creative way to stay excited and get back on track?
  5. Give it some gas: When I pushed the gas pedal, prior to the creative stick stuffing solution, I just sunk deeper. When we get off track and we keep spinning our wheels we get more stuck. But if you employ the strategies of hard work and creative solutions- AND THEN give it some gas. Pop! You are out and back on track.
  6. Never give up: Whether you are stuck in the mud or stuck on a goal you are not a failure and you are not irreversibly off course UNTIL you give up. The first dig, stuff, pop clutch circuit got me a foot, the second a yard and finally after a few tries I was back on course. Your first attempt to reestablish your goal may not work perfectly. KEEP AT IT!!
  7. Get lucky: Luck is not just when preparation meets opportunity. Luck is preparation meeting opportunity, combined with your effort and creativity. When you put in the effort required, luck will be in your favor more time than not. Luck is something we recognize in the rearview. After a little time to reflect we wonder how we did it. We did it because we prepared, we worked hard and the opportunity presented.
  8. Ask for help: We can’t, and shouldn’t, go it alone. Who is your support network? While I would have loved someone to help dig out my truck, the truth is, I had to do that part on my own; so might you. But once I got out I immediately sought the help of my dad, the trucks unhappy owner, to get cleaned up. Allow those in your life that care and want to help, participate in your efforts.
  9. Learn the lesson: Never allow what distracted you initially to distract you ever again. No more firework factories. We have goals to accomplish and lives to impact. Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.

Along the road to success we will see plenty of distracting diversions. We will get tired, we will question our commitment and wonder why we even thought it possible. But remember, if we got off track, we can get back on. We have the tools and the steps necessary. It doesn’t matter how far off course you feel, there is always an opportunity to learn and return. Dig out your wheels, pop the clutch and let’s go!!

Would you believe this is not the end of my Saskatchewan fishing trip story? How much more can go wrong? Find out in next weeks blog post.


Ever Take The Wrong Road?

The 17 Hour Banaue Death Drive

The Wrong Road

Do you ever wonder if you are headed down the wrong path? Not “throwing your life away” kind of wrong path, the “focusing on the wrong priorities in life and business” kind of wrong path.

I’ve been there. I started, and failed at, three businesses in the last ten years. Not one of them caught the fire necessary for sustainability. I wasted a lot of time and money; the time burns me more than the money.

As high achievers, you and I see a need and we start to fill it. Unfortunately, this leads to the society of starters, when we need to be finishers.

The Long Road to Banaue, or as my kids call it, The 17 Hour Death Drive:

As a family, we took a vacation to see the Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines; commonly referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World. The place is amazing: 2000-year-old rice terraces carved into the mountains of Ifugao fed by an ancient irrigation system. Stunning sunrises, fog, greenery- just breathtaking.

The terraces are, however, a long way from the Manila airport. Only accessible by car, it takes 8-9 hours without traffic; good luck finding a rental willing to allow their cars up there. Add three more hours for the two-kilometers across Manila commute- yes, two kilometers, three hours, yuck! Plan for 12 hours of one lane, steep, windy driving with chickens scattering about.

We arranged for a room at Tony’s house, he is the best, and set off.

Like goal achievement, you have your desired outcome, you set your course, and enthusiastically take off. But what happens when you realize the course you chose was wrong?

We relied on GPS because we are directionally challenged newbies to Northern Luzon. One map directed to Banaue proper, a second to Tony’s house. When they differed, we followed Tony’s house map. Twelve hours later, pitch black and pouring rain, we came to the pavements end. The road continued in the form of a muddy mess. I tried to walk it, barely.

The hard decision

When this happens on a drive you can turn the car around. When it happens in the drive to your goals, what do you do? The only options are reverse course or push on.

Easier said than done

When we invest time and effort into a project or goal, the pain of realizing that you are on the wrong path can be crushing. As motivation hits an all-time low, you question if it is even worth pursuing.

We had the same decision to make on the road to Banaue. According to the map we were now four hours in the wrong direction. Was Banaue worth it?


We turned around, retraced to where the GPS led us astray, and arrived at the Rice Terraces a little after 1:00am. Tony was asleep so we slept a couple hours in the car (slept?). At sunrise, we stood at the upper lookout and watched as the magnificence of Banaue’s 2000-year-old rice terraces came into full view. It took 17 hours but we celebrated arriving.

You will experience disappointment when you realize you followed the wrong course to your dream. But, once you get back on track and ultimately reach your destination, it will be worth it.

The Wrong Road

Three suggestions when you realize you navigated the wrong course to your goal.

  1. Make a decisive decision to succeed. Do not doubt or hesitate. Immediately adjust to the right course.
  2. The route was an error, but you are not a failure. Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. You did not fail, you just took the scenic route. Do not beat yourself, pick yourself up with confidence and go after your goal.
  3. Reaching your goal will taste super sweet. Anything worthwhile will take effort and demand sacrifice. But when you do reach your goal the result will feel deserved.

Like sunrise over Banaue after a 17 mile death drive.