Stepping into Leadership and Identifying your Core Values

Identifying your personal values.

For the first time in my professional life, I can clearly articulate what my personal values are. It may sound like an odd thing to admit none the less, it is the truth.

Before the start of this academic year, I had never really given much meaningful thought as to what my own core values were. This was mainly due to the fact that I just based my perceived values around the ones of schools that I worked in.

So, when I was asked to share what my personal values truly were as a school leader, I was surprised at how much of a struggle it was for me to give a clear response.

I am fairly certain that many educators are frequently asked the question ‘what are your core values?’. However, just how easily are you able to respond?

I have (belatedly) learnt that no matter where we are on our journey as educators, it is a vital question that requires the time to provide a substantive answer which reflects who we really are. For those of us entering / undertaking leadership positions, it becomes pivotal for us to establish what these values are because they should then be mirrored through our actions.

Pursuing interim career options this year, has freed me up to take all the time that I needed to explore my own values. Attending the MagnaMHTH17 event on Thursday 25th May 2017 allowed me to obtain the clearest definition of a value by Sue Webb (Executive Director of Values Based Education).  Sue defined a value in the following way:

‘A value is a principle that guides our thinking and behaviour’.


Earlier in March 2017, I attended a WomenEd session in Coventry called ‘The importance of understanding your personal values to reduce stress’ by Amanda Pearce-Burton. Amanda explained that our values are our moral rudders and helps us steer through the conflicts we experience in our life. If we are not in alignment with our values then it requires more cognitive mental processes and energy which can result in burn out or significant stress.

Furthermore, when we work in establishments that go against our personal values, it can have a negative effect. These effects can be presented as signals such as:

  • I feel trapped.
  • I’m not the person I want to be.
  • I’m bored.
  • I can’t ignore the calling.
  • I won’t compromise my ethics.
  • Life’s too short [1].


One key question posed during the session was:

‘Are we living as much as we can within our values?’

Amanda shared that writing down, articulating in one way, shape or form our values is an effective psychological intervention. This in turn can make us less stressed and develop increased resilience.

This is the first time that I had actually considered the link between our true core values and our well-being.  Amanda’s session highlighted the absolute need for us to be crystal clear about our personal values to prevent it causing internal dissonance externally manifested in the list above.

The journey of securing my next leadership role, has forced me to sit down and really analyse what my own personal values are. And it has not been easy. Undertaking interim roles had meant that I had to look deep within myself to ponder what really mattered most to me.  So, nearly a year after a combination of challenging / direct / earnest conversations and reflection, I have finally arrived at my own core values which spell the acronym DRIVE.


Determination – unwavering persistence, resilience and drive to achieve successful outcomes even when the going gets tough forms my backbone.

Relationships – in my eyes, leadership is embodied by the influence we have with others. This therefore means that the foundations of effective leadership are based upon the relationships we have. People matter, irrespective of who and what we are. This then makes it paramount to create effective communications and collaboration opportunities in order to achieve mutual outcomes.

Integrity – it is an absolute must for all leaders to establish genuine credibility. No one is perfect, however as far as we can, our actions must match what we say.

Valour –  this links to my involvement with #WomenEd and of being ‘10% braver’. As a leader, I believe that we have to be brave even if it is just by taking one small step into unfamiliar experiences, opportunities or risks.

Enthusiasm – being playful, occasionally mischievous and unwaveringly optimistic, helps me to maintain highly levels of enthusiasm. This is down to the fact that I love what I do as an educator. My engagement within a variety of educational roles in the virtual and physical world clearly demonstrates this fact and helps to convey my positivity.


The full acknowledgement of my own core values, has made it easier for me to test out whether or not I am actually living within them. Interestingly, working as I have since September 2016 has enabled me to do this and has facilitated more balanced in terms of my well-being. Amanda’s session helped me to clearly see this.

I therefore hope that you also have the opportunity to determine your personal values in order to establish greater alignment between your core purpose, the fulfilment of your educational role and your well-being. The questions within the poster should help you pin down what they are, if like me, you initially find it challenging to articulate [2].



[1] Boyatzis, R. E. and McKee, A. (2005). Resonant leadership: renewing yourself and connecting with others through mindfulness, hope, and compassion. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

[2] ContentSparks ‘Brainstorm Your Core Values’

View comments (2)
Jill Berry
23 Jun 2017 / 17:06

You're going to be wonderful in your new role, Bukky. They are lucky to have you.

Vanessa Goucher
13 Jan 2021 / 10:01

Bukky- Thank-you for describing this process of defining your values against the backdrop of the support given by WomenEd. This is definitely something which I will do and I hope it is as beneficial for my leadership journey. V

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