Values, Principles, and now, Virtue

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
—The byline of Principle-Centered Leadership
by Stephen R. Covey

Some believe that in part, Stephen R. Covey wrote Principle-Centered Leadership to finally quiet others of the opinion there was a basic flaw in his ground-breaking book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In the minds of these speculative readers, within the book’s pages Covey hadn’t defined principles very well as opposed to values.

Covey certainly heard the naysayers, for in reading PCL the Leadership part of Principle-Centered Leadership can seem a convenient fringe benefit. I’m flipping through his book once again in a quick review. It was brought back to mind for me after I had a conversation with James Shewmaker of our Ho‘ohana Community via email. James has a brand new blog called Cohesive Integrity, and in yesterday’s post there he gives his definition between values and principles.

In our email conversation I openly admitted my own Covey brainwashing to James, and as I read the Preface to Principle-Centered Leadership again late last night (the book’s preface is titled A Principle-Centered Approach) it was pretty startling for me to realize just how profoundly Covey’s teaching has influenced me: I had repeated his definition to James almost verbatim.

This is in a section of the PCL Preface called Leadership by Compass:

“Correct principles are like compasses: they are always pointing the way. And if we know how to read them, we won’t get lost, confused, or fooled by conflicting voices and values.

Principles are self-evident, self-validating natural laws. They don’t change or shift. They provide ‘true north’ direction to our lives when navigating the ‘streams’ of our environments.

Principles apply at all time in all places. They surface in the form of values, ideas, norms, and teachings that uplift, ennoble, fulfill, empower, and inspire people. The lesson of history is that to the degree people and civilizations have operated in harmony with correct principles, they have prospered.”

And then this ” the part that has become such subconscious fact for me without my realizing it until I re-read the words again last night. When I talk to people about values versus principles, and when I coach, this has been my own definition and reference;   I include the map analogy, for it remains the best I have heard:

“Principles, unlike values, are objective and external. They operate in obedience to natural laws, regardless of conditions. Values are subjective and internal. Values are like maps. Maps are not the territories; they are only subjective attempts to describe or represent the territory. The more closely our values or maps are aligned with correct principles—with the realities of the territory, with things as they really are—the more accurate and useful they will be.”
—Stephen R. Covey

I do talk about Covey often, and I give him full credit for the lessons I’ve learned from him and have used effectively. In the coaching I do I’ll give my student Covey’s map analogy as a picture frame in which they can then create the art of their ho‘ohana (the purpose of their work) and ‘imi ola, their best possible life within that purpose.

Then, I coach with questions which help them think and reflect, so that they choose the principles (their territory) and the values (their strengths-connected map) which may govern their reality, all on the continent of their work. The result is that we talk about both values and principles quite a bit, with principles being the business landscape we operate in. The values of Managing with Aloha are intended to help managers fully understand how proactive, positive, and self-validating values can be with aligned with their individual strengths.

And now ” Virtues

I wrote a post for yesterday which tosses virtues in the mix, and hence dips our toes in the waters of morality, spirituality, and religion. Whew! Ah well, what better time that December to get into the discussion? You can read it at Leon’s place, and I’ve also re-posted it at Managing with Aloha Coaching for my own ever-ready-reference. It’s my Aloha Virtue List.

For those of you who do not have Managing with Aloha (‘yet,’ right?) this is what I wrote there on the spirituality and religion question, it appears on page 21:

As you read on, I ask you to keep something in mind whenever I use the words “spirit” or “spirituality.” Where I say spirituality, I refer to the spirit within; you could call it the breath of your life, the voice of your soul.

For me, the individual religions of the world are merely different expressions people have for their own spirituality within them, and they have made a choice as to who they will honor in their gratefulness.

I am not suggesting religiousness; that is your own choice. However I do believe that we should acknowledge our own spirituality and get comfortable with it. One’s inner spiritual power is assumed in the Hawaiian culture, and it is celebrated.

In many ways Managing with Aloha is about tapping into the spirit that is inside you; it embraces your intuition and gut-level feelings.

Have some thoughts on all of this? Let’s talk story.

As a corollary to all this, you may also be interested in a quick review of Covey’s stated Law of the Harvest: this is from my Why GTD reminds me of the 7 Habits post.

I had learned that Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits are based upon the timeless principle called the Law of the Harvest: we tend to reap what we sow. “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny,” the maxim goes.

And it’s only day 2 of December! This is where we are”

A Ho‘ohana of Faith and Family. Our Ho‘ohana for December 2005.

My Aloha Virtues List. Make your own list, and “check it off twice.”


  1. says

    Mahalo Nui Loa

    Today, Rosa Say, author of “Managing With Aloha” and founder of Say Leadership Coaching, referenced both this blog and my Cohesive Integrity column on her Talking Story blog.
    Mahalo Nui Loa, Rosa.

  2. says

    Great post, Rosa! Your analysis and the reminder of these concepts brought forth lots of strong feelings and fond memories for me. My first blog post back in January was inspired by Covey’s “8th Habit” book, with its encouragement to “Find Your Voice.”
    Soon afterward, I read Benjamin Franklin’s biography and posted about his system for tracking his progress in improving his “Virtues.”
    And, you may recall that I think of your book as a phenomenal “why to” guide for managers.
    Finally, from the stuff I’ve posted here, you may know I’ve been a long-time follower of (and frequent wallower in) Getting Things Done. In fact, I have had some introspective moments trying to figure out how principles applied to GTD.
    I’ve come to realize that there is a strong intersection of all of these “systems” and they are actually far more similar than they may seem at first glance. I found my “trigger” in Covey’s writing about “exercising integrity in the moment of choice.”
    Making the right choices seems to be the most challenging part of any “time management” system – and those choice can make you wildly successful, but you’ll only feel good about what you’re doing if the choices are consistent with your unwritten rules.

  3. says

    I remember your first post very well Dwayne! I had started reading your Genuine Curiosity a bit later, however when I discovered your inspiring blog I could not resist dipping into your archives and reading as much of it as I could.
    Your voice has added the music of provocative thought to the Ho‘ohana Community, and I am so very grateful that you share so much with us so freely.
    On what you’ve written here: Can you point me more directly to the source of that “trigger” in Covey’s writing about ‘exercising integrity in the moment of choice’ ??? Do you remember where that quote comes from?

  4. says

    I vividly remember the first time I heard it – at a “First Things First” seminar in August of 1993. At that time, it was “integrity in the moment of truth.”
    It’s Chapter 9 in the Covey “First Things First” book – subtitled “Quality of life depends on what happens in the space between stimulus and response.” Very powerful.
    Another cosmic nudge – I was in the Franklin-Covey store today to verify that’s what chapter it was in. I picked up the book and *while I was looking through it* the Bing Crosby version of “Mele Kalikimaka” came on – I thought that was very spooky (and quite cool).

  5. says

    Nice string of comments… I have a story or two of Covey as well that I should develop more fully and share.
    The timeliness of music and thought is not “just a coincidence” or “spooky”, although it seems that way.
    There is only so much our brain can pay attention to that our senses bring to it, what we do notice are these “coincidences or spooky things”. We are making a connection. We are living and learning. Some times, we are just more conscious of it than at other times. We are life long learners, if we choose to live and breath and pursue life.
    Thanks for fostering this Rosa! and contributing Dwayne!

  6. says

    Mahalo Dwayne! It was driving me a bit crazy, for I knew I had read it very recently somewhere, and I couldn’t remember where. I should have known to think of First Things First since I’d just re-read it in October as the Ho‘ohana Book of the Month — I took my own Sweet Closure too far ” out of sight, out of mind.
    These were the passages I’d marked in that chapter back in October:
    — “A moment of choice is a moment of truth. It’s the testing point of our character and competence.”
    — “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do,” said Emerson, “not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our ability to do has increased.” As we learn to ask with intent, listen without excuse, and act with courage, we build our ability to live a principle-centered life.”
    — “People seem not to see,” said Emerson, “that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.” One of the best ways to educate our heart is to look at our interaction with other people, because our relationships with others are fundamentally a reflection of our relationship with ourselves.
    Oh, and I think your hearing Mele Kalikimaka was quite cool too!
    Steve, we’ll look forward to your Covey stories! It’s a toss up who I mention here more, Stephen Covey, Marcus Buckingham (or somebody from Gallup), and recently David Allen, however the Covey opportunities are very sure to return!
    Getting back to Dwayne’s original comment, my own “trigger” for asking the question goes back to the word integrity. For harking back to my post, one part of my email banter with James Shewmaker had been the differences when integrity is thought of as a value or as a principle. Many could argue it’s a virtue too, for the connection to morality and character-building is pretty undeniable.
    With those thoughts angling for my brain’s attention, perhaps it’s more understandable that my memory of First Things First was pushed far to the back recesses of my mind ”
    Hmmm ” the mental gymnastics for a Saturday evening!

  7. says

    Dwayne’s mentioning of “exercising integrity in the moment of choice” is one of the ways that I will be discusiing in the future of preventing the techniques that I am discussing on “Cohesive Integrity” from becoming adhesive. That article is scheduled for late December or early January.
    But for now, let me mention that “exercising integrity in the moment of choice” is similar to the concept of “source” which you describe. (However, I believe that the subjective must always be subservient to the objective.) When faced with a moment of decision, if a person is using a schedule to “tie her hands” then instead of creating the cohesiveness of integrity she is degenerating into the adhesion of self-management. (I will touch on that in Dec. 5th’s posting.)

  8. says

    Interesting James, we’ll click in to Cohesive Integrity and see what you have to say!
    If I may expand a bit here for now, certainly nānā i ke kumu, “look to your source and find your truth” is about exercising one’s self-integrity, and looking inward for one’s more proactive responses to those moments of truth which present themselves.