In an era whereby turbulence and changes is always moving and ongoing, finding your way out of it is a very big challenge and even with a map, it may not be of good use. What a human being needs is a Moral Compass.

Principles are like a compass, it has a TRUE NORTH, objective and external, that reflects natural laws or principles, while values are subjective and external. Principles are proven, enduring guidelines for human conduct. In a world with many different religions, there are global basic principles such as –

– “You reap what you sow”

– “Actions are more important than words”

-“You can’t have trust without being trustworthy”

-Universal beliefs ~ kindness, dignity, charity, integrity, honesty, quality service, and patience

Principles are not values, principles represent territories while values are maps, that attempts to describe or represent the territory. In such a volatile and changing environment, maps may become obsolete. Therefore, a map (values) is closely aligned with correct principles (territories), it would be more accurate and useful for us to implement.

In today’s environment, a compass would be invaluable to everybody –

(1) A compass orients people to the coordinates and directional course in all terrains.

(2) A map is obsolete in times of changing territories and rapid changes in society.

(3) If you are using an old map in the modern context, you are definitely frustrated finding your way around using the old map.

(4) A compass would definitely help an executive/leader who is a pioneer in its own environment/territory, whereby it is uncharted and no existing map available.

(5) A compass would help us pave and open up the various channels (production and distribution) to reach our objective.

(6) The map can give us a description of the terrain and surroundings, however, without the compass, you don’t have a direction or vision.

(7) An accurate map is a good management tool while a compass is an excellent leadership and empowerment tool.

In an organisation, the problem arising from ineffective cultures is the map dictated by the head of the organisation and the solution is to change from management by maps (values) to leadership by compass (principles). 

Principles are not practices. A practice is a specific activity or action that works in a certain environment or circumstance, that may not necessarily be applicable in another. If we train people in a certain practice such as customer service, we would get a degree of customer service involving certain patterns and practices and they would most probably not be able to handle special or unique customer situations. If the training is done using principles of customer service, they would be to understand the principle and how it is applied on the customer service.

With a compass, we can set ourselves to win and be successful. However, people who think they are above the law would find the concept of moral compassing unsettling. There would be a lot of hardship, “blood, sweat and tears”, discussions, strategic planning and implementation before the compass leads you to the TRUE NORTH.

(Adapted from Chapter 8 – Moral Compassing, from “Principle-Centred Leadership” by Stephen R. Covey)

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