Guiding principles refer to a broad philosophy or fundamental set of values or guidelines that inform and shape an individual’s behavior or an organization’s decision-making process.
Organizations often leverage guiding principles to establish a direction and help ensure consistency in actions (Lepsinger & Lucia, 1997). In a personal context, guiding principles often encapsulate a person’s core beliefs and core values that navigate their life choices (Baumeister, & Vohs, 2002).
No matter the context, guiding principles can be seen as forming the compass that influences decisions, actions, and behavior.
Understanding guiding principles can help in setting life goals, improving ethical conduct, enhancing decision-making, and establishing organizational culture (Schwartz, 2001).
Guiding Principles Examples
1. My Ten Guiding Principles
These are my personal guiding principles for my personal philosophy in life:
First Principle: Curiosity
I attribute most of my successes in life to the fact I’m curious and willing to learn something every single day. I remember from a very young age that I’d put my head on the pillow at night and ask myself: “what did I learn today?” And to this day, I still believe that being curious about things around you and learning something each day is essential to achieving success in life.
Second Principle: Turn up Consistently
I’ve learned that all of the big successes in my life – from my Ph.D to my business to my fitness – have come about because I’ve turned up every day and worked on the things I care about. The more consistent you are in turning up and putting in the work, the more likely you will achieve your goals. Each day, take one step toward your goals.
Third Principle: Respect
Based on the lessons I learned from my parents and my (lapsed) Catholic upbringing, I believe in treating all individuals with dignity, regardless of their status or differences. It builds upon the understanding that everyone possesses inherent worth. I think this is easier for me because I allow myself to feel empathy and compassion for others, which is the next principle..
Fourth Principle: Empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It enables me to connect with people on a deeper level and respond effectively to their needs. I think this principle has served me well, and helped me to become a better teacher and friend. When others might shun or snob or bully, I believe I should demonstrate care for people who need it.
Fifth Principle: Integrity
Integrity is the principle of being honest and having strong moral values. It propels you to behave ethically in all situations, aligning your actions with your beliefs. Here’s an example of my embrace of integrity – I get emails from companies asking me to promote their unethical essay writing services to readers of this website. It’d make me a lot of money, but it doesn’t fit with my principles, so I turn my back on extra money in order to stay true to my guiding principle of integrity.
Sixth Principle: Resilience
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adverse situations or setbacks. It encourages you to view obstacles as opportunities for growth, rather than impediments. To me, cultivating resilience is about not giving up and working through difficulties. No one will go through life without hardship. It’s how we respond that matters.
Seventh Principle: Self-discipline
Self-discipline is the capacity to control your actions and make deliberate decisions, resisting short-term gratification for long-term benefits. It allows you to stick to your plans and goals, regardless of hindrances. By adopting self-discipline you can achieve meaningful goals and maintain a balanced lifestyle.
Eighth Principle: Gratitude
Gratitude is expressing appreciation for what you have, rather than what you want. I’ve come to this principle later in life, after reflecting on my own spirituality and my propensity to always want more. Taking a moment to pause and express gratitude helps me to ground myself and cultivate a positive and content mindset.
Ninth Principle: Generosity
Since getting married, I’ve come to learn about the importance of giving yourself generously to people you love. I might want to go off and do my own thing a lot of the time, but generously giving my time to my wife and supporting her hobbies and interests is so important for our relationship. I think when I have kids, I’ll learn this even more – generosity with your time is an important way to cultivate loving relationships and strong binds.
Tenth Principle: Kindness
Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Modeling kindness in your daily life can create a positive atmosphere and promote well-being in others. Often, we need to return to this principle at times when we’re frustrated, busy or anxious. It’s in these moments that we should remember to pause and show kindness to others, because they deserve your kindness.
I’m going to turn to general examples for a range of aspects of life now, starting with examples of guiding principles that might serve you well in your career.
2. Guiding Principles for your Career
- Continual Learning
Continuous learning is an instrumental principle which requires you to actively seek out new knowledge, skills, and experiences. This promotes adaptability and preparedness for the rapidly evolving work landscape. Investing in continuous learning can significantly boost your career trajectory.
Networking is the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. It opens doors to opportunities and knowledge that can propel your career growth. Adherence to this principle can establish a support system within your chosen profession.
- Goal Setting
Goal setting involves establishing specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) career objectives. It provides direction and a clear pathway to achieve your aspirations. With consistent goal setting, you can be aligned towards your career progression and success.
Adaptability involves adjusting your course of action to thrive in different environments, or in response to changes in the organization or industry. This principle enhances your resilience in the face of change. Demonstrating adaptability reveals your flexibility and problem-solving abilities to potential employers.
- Work-Life Balance
Work-Life balance involves prioritizing between your work (career and ambition) and lifestyle (health, leisure, family, pleasure). Maintaining this balance can ward off stress and improve overall satisfaction. In essence, work-life balance is key to enjoying a fulfilling and life while delivering peak performance at work.
Professionalism is a principle that embodies a certain standard of behavior expected in the workplace. It encompasses attributes such as competency, reliability, decorum, and ethical conduct. Cultivating professionalism can enhance your reputation and eases collaboration with colleagues or clients.
- Constructive Criticism
This principle involves accepting feedback about work-related performance or behavior and using it as a growth tool. It helps in the self-assessment of your skills, thus improving them. Constructive criticism aids career development by aligning performance with company expectations or industry standards.
- Accountability at Work
Accountability at work means assuming responsibility for your actions and the consequences thereof. It establishes your reliability and maturity as a professional. Embracing this principle can enhance your reputation as a dependable and reliable employee.
Mentoring involves seeking guidance from more experienced professionals to further your career growth. It allows you to leverage the mentor’s knowledge and experience for your professional development. Implementing mentoring in your career plan can fast-track your career progression.
- Lifelong Learning
Lifelong learning is the sustained and self-initiated pursuit of knowledge for personal or professional reasons. It’s a principle that ensures you stay on top of industry changes and technologies. By embracing lifelong learning, you assure your continued relevance in the changing job market.
- Respect for Diversity
Respect for Diversity means to accept and appreciate differences in people, whether those differences are cultural, racial, religious, or personality-based. This principle enables the fostering of various perspectives and innovation in the workplace. Understanding and appreciating diversity can lead to a more satisfying and successful career.
Teamwork emphasizes the ability to collaborate effectively with colleagues to achieve common objectives. It helps leverage individual strengths towards collective success. Championing teamwork can foster a productive work environment and provide you with valuable interpersonal skills.
- Positive Attitude
A positive attitude in your career involves tackling challenges with optimism and maintaining a positive outlook even when things get tough. This principle can influence your job satisfaction and overall work performance. By embodying a positive attitude, you can navigate your work environment more comfortably and create productive relationships.
- Commitment to Excellence
Commitment to Excellence encourages you to continually strive for outstanding performance in your professional duties. It pushes you to not settle for mediocrity but instead aim for the highest standard possible. By adhering to this principle, you increase your potential for promotion and job satisfaction.
3. Guiding Principles for Business
These principles might be included in your business’s code of ethics:
- Customer Focus
A business should prioritize its customers, striving to understand and meet their needs. By focusing on customers, businesses can enhance their reputation, maintain loyalty, and ultimately drive more sales.
Businesses should demonstrate integrity by conducting all operations honestly and ethically. This principle builds trust with customers, employees, and stakeholders, and enhances overall business reputation.
Innovation involves creating new ideas or refining current products, services, or processes. Innovative businesses can gain a competitive edge, attract more customers, and drive growth.
- Value Creation
Value creation focuses on providing products or services that customers perceive as valuable. By providing high-quality products or exceptional service, businesses can attract and retain customers and differentiate themselves from competitors.
Businesses should focus on sustainability, balancing business activities with the need to preserve natural resources and protect the environment. Sustainable businesses can enhance their reputations, meet customer expectations, and ensure long-term business viability.
- Financial Responsibility
Financial responsibility involves efficiently managing business finances, ensuring profitability, and maximizing shareholder value. It can help businesses sustain operations, invest in growth, and maintain stakeholder trust.
- Corporate Social Responsibility
Businesses should embrace corporate social responsibility, positively contributing to social, economic, and environmental issues. Socially responsible businesses can enhance corporate reputation, attract consumers and employees, and build goodwill in local communities.
- Continual Improvement
Businesses should strive for continual improvement, constantly seeking ways to improve products, services, or operations. This principle can increase efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction.
- Competition Awareness
Awareness of competition helps businesses understand market dynamics, anticipate shifts, and position their offerings effectively. This principle aids in strategic planning, risk mitigation, and staying competitive.
- Employee Well-being
The well-being of employees should be a priority. It involves creating a safe, healthy, and positive work environment. Businesses focusing on employee well-being can experience increased productivity, improved moral, and retention of talent.
Businesses should be adaptable, able to pivot in response to changing market trends, customer needs, or industry shifts. An adaptable business can swiftly seize new opportunities, mitigate threats, and maintain overall business resilience.
Guiding Principles for Students
- Consistent Study Habits
Consistent study habits are the ongoing, regular set up and follow through of study periods. This principle aids in information retention and eases academic pressures. By maintaining consistent study habits, you can improve your academic performance and enjoy a less stressful education journey.
Open-mindedness involve an eagerness to learn new ideas and the ability to be receptive to different viewpoints. This principle stimulates growth and broadens your perspective. Harnessing curiosity and open-mindedness can contribute significantly to your educational enrichment.
- Time Management
Time management is the efficient use of time to increase productivity and effectiveness. It helps balance your academic and personal life, reducing stress and enhancing performance. By mastering time management, you’re able to prioritize tasks and maximize your study productivity.
- Active Participation
Active participation means getting involved in classroom discussions, group studies, and extracurricular activities. This principle enhances learning engagement and increases knowledge comprehension. Active participation makes schooling an interactive experience, aiding in the mastery of complex concepts.
- Seeking Help When Needed
Seeking help when needed involves reaching out to teachers, classmates, or tutors when academic challenges arise. It demonstrates humility and a genuine desire to learn. Recognizing and acting on this principle can prevent minor misunderstandings from becoming major roadblocks to learning.
- Self-Respect and Respect for Others
This principle involves valuing yourself and others, fostering positive relationships, and promoting a healthy learning environment. Upholding respect leads to better interaction with peers and teachers. By adhering to this principle, you contribute to a positive and supportive educational atmosphere.
- Independent Thought
Independent thought is about developing your viewpoint and standing up for it. This principle empowers you to evaluate information critically and articulate well-reasoned arguments. By embracing independent thought, you foster intellectual growth and build confidence.
In a student’s context, resilience is the ability to quickly recover from academic setbacks or failures and learn from them. This principle fosters a growth mindset and promotes perseverance. Resilience can help you maintain focus and determination in the face of academic challenges.
Responsibility involves taking ownership of your actions, homework, projects, and deadlines. This principle enhances your reliability and builds character. By adopting responsibility, you can develop valuable life skills and show initiative.
- Health Consciousness
Health consciousness is an awareness and relative importance placed on health, particularly mental and physical fitness. This principle ensures you maintain your well-being, contributing to better concentration and performance. By being health conscious, you can balance academic pursuits with personal well-being effectively.
- Constructive Socializing
Constructive socializing involves forming and maintaining positive friendships and study groups. It encourages teamwork skills and a sense of belonging. With constructive socializing, you create a supportive network that can make your education journey more fulfilling and enjoyable.
- Plagiarism Avoidance
This principle is about understanding and respecting intellectual property rights. It guides you to always credit the sources from which you derived your information. Plagiarism avoidance notifies your academic integrity and builds your reputation as a trustworthy student.
- Ethical Internet Usage
Ethical Internet usage means using internet resources responsibly, protecting your personal information, and respecting others’ digital space. It promotes a safer online environment. By following this principle, you can explore and use the internet more responsibly.
- Personal Growth
Focusing on personal growth means valuing education for individual development, beyond grades and academic achievements. This principle encourages the development of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and personal value systems. A focus on personal growth enhances your holistic development as an individual.
4. Guiding Principles for Personal Life
Self-awareness is the conception and understanding of your character, feelings, motives, and desires. This principle lies at the heart of successful personal development, assisting you in making decisions aligned with your values and aspirations. By focusing on self-awareness, you can live in harmony with your true self.
Balance is about achieving equilibrium in various aspects of your life, including work, family, social interactions, and personal growth. This principle ensures that you aren’t overextending in any one realm at the expense of others. A balanced life can bring overall satisfaction and happiness.
Compassion and empathy involve demonstrating understanding and empathetic feelings towards others. This principle strengthens your relationships, and fosters kindness in your interactions. Embodying compassion and empathy can positively impact both your personal and social life.
- Health and Wellness
This principle encourages the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and necessary rest. By prioritizing your health and wellness, you can ensure a robust and energetic life, capable of meeting personal and professional demands.
- Personal Integrity
Personal integrity is about living in accord with your values and beliefs, even when no one is watching. This principle forms the cornerstone of your character. Upholding personal integrity builds self-respect and earns the respect of others.
- Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence involves the ability to understand, use, and manage your emotions positively. It aids in navigating social complexities and making personal decisions that achieve positive results. Elevating your emotional intelligence can lead to healthier relationships and a better understanding of your emotional landscape.
Creativity encourages an open mind and the exploration of new thoughts, ideas, and ways of doing things. This principle can facilitate problem-solving skills and bring joy in self-expression. By embracing creativity, you promote personal innovation and discovery.
Accountability is the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. This principle encourages honesty and transparency. Holding yourself accountable helps develop trust in yourself and from others.
- Continuous Personal Development
Continuous personal development involves actively seeking to improve your skills, knowledge, and personal qualities. It encourages the constant pursuit of growth and understanding. Engaging in continuous personal development can lead to self-fulfillment and validation.
Patience is the capability to tolerate delay without becoming annoyed or upset, and to persevere calmly when faced with difficulties. This principle can reduce stress and avoid impulsive actions. By incorporating patience, you can respond more thoughtfully and constructively when facing challenges.
- Respect for Nature
Respect for nature encourages the conservation of our natural environment and eco-friendly practices. This principle promotes sustainable living and awareness of environmental issues. By respecting nature, you contribute to the preservation of the environment for future generations.
- Financial Responsibility
Financial responsibility involves managing money wisely, which includes budgeting, saving, avoiding unnecessary debts, and planning for the future. This principle fosters financial stability and independence. By adopting financial responsibility, you can secure your future and reduce monetary stresses.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment, calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This principle promotes mental clarity and reduces anxiety. Practicing mindfulness can lead to increased happiness and less stress.
Don’t forget to turn your list of guiding principles into a credo statement, like these ones here.
5. Guiding Principles for Teams
- Clear Communication
Clear communication is the practice of exchanging information effectively within a team. Clarity and openness in communication can eliminate misunderstandings and enhance team cohesion. By prioritizing clear communication, teams can operate more smoothly and efficiently.
- Shared Goals
Shared goals reflect a common objective that all team members strive towards. This principle aligns individual efforts and promotes team unity. Establishing shared goals helps teams work together more effectively to achieve a common purpose.
- Mutual Respect
Mutual respect encourages team members to value each other’s ideas and contributions, irrespective of roles or levels. It stimulates a healthy working environment, fosters inclusive discussions, and reduces conflicts. By practicing mutual respect, teams can foster a positive and productive working atmosphere.
Trust within a team involves the confidence that team members have in each other’s capability and reliability. This principle cultivates open communication, encourages risk-taking, and enhances collaboration. Building trust in a team can lead to heightened productivity and improved teamwork.
- Individual Accountability
Individual accountability requires each team member to take responsibility for their tasks and the results thereof. This principle fosters reliability and promotes ownership of both successes and failures. By enforcing individual accountability, teams can ensure all members contribute effectively.
Collaboration involves team members working together to achieve common goals, leveraging collective intelligence. By promoting collaboration, teams can harness diverse skills and experiences, leading to more innovative solutions.
- Constructive Conflict Resolution
Constructive conflict resolution encourages addressing disagreements in a positive and productive manner. This principle prevents escalation of disagreements and fosters mutual understanding. By adopting constructive conflict resolution, teams can transform potential discord into opportunities for growth.
- Regular Feedback
Regular feedback involves frequent communication about performance, progress, and areas of improvement. This principle promotes personal development and ensures alignment with team objectives. By integrating regular feedback, teams can maintain performance and engagement levels.
- Role Clarity
Role clarity involves clearly defining and understanding individual responsibilities within the team. This principle aids in avoiding duplication or overlooking of tasks. Enforcing role clarity ensures smoother operations and reduced misunderstandings.
- Embracing Diversity
Embracing diversity reflects recognition of and respect for the varied backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences within the team. This principle fosters an inclusive environment, induces creativity, and enhances problem-solving. By embracing diversity, teams can enjoy richer brainstorming sessions and more comprehensive solutions.
Agility within a team involves the capacity to swiftly adapt to changes and effectively respond to new challenges. This principle enhances productivity and responsiveness. An agile team can navigate unpredictable circumstances without sacrificing performance.
Empowerment involves granting team members the authority to make certain decisions and encouraging them to take initiative. This principle enhances job satisfaction, stimulates motivation, and boosts overall performance. By enforcing empowerment, teams can enjoy more autonomous and motivated members.
Being learning-oriented signifies an orientation towards acquiring new skills and knowledge, along with learning from successes and failures. This principle promotes continuous development and adaptability. A learning-oriented team stays relevant and equipped to handle changing circumstances.
- Recognition and Reward
Recognition and reward involve acknowledging individual and team achievements, appreciating hard work, and rewarding outstanding performance. This principle enhances motivation and job satisfaction. Recognizing and rewarding efforts can validate team members’ contributions and inspire continued excellence.
- Social Bonding
Social bonding aims to build personal relationships and foster camaraderie among team members. This principle enhances team harmony and promotes a enjoyable working environment. Incorporating time for social bonding can make teams more cohesive and supportive.
6. Guiding Principles for Leadership
- Vision and Purpose
A leader should have a clear vision and purpose, guiding actions and inspiring others. By projecting a compelling vision, leaders can align team efforts toward a common goal, fostering a sense of unity and direction.
Clear, concise, and thoughtful communication is fundamental to leadership. This principle ensures team members are well-informed and feel valued. Leaders, by communicating effectively, can cultivate a transparent and inclusive environment.
Leaders should empower their team members by delegating tasks, providing the necessary resources, and encouraging personal and professional growth. Empowered team members can take more initiative and responsibility, enhancing organizational effectiveness.
- Agility in Decision-Making
Agility in decision-making involves making informed, swift decisions, and adjusting strategies based on new information or changing circumstances. A leader who practices agility can respond promptly and effectively to challenges and opportunities.
- Continuous Learning
Leaders should embrace continuous learning to stay informed about industry trends, enhance leadership skills, and foster personal growth. Learning-oriented leaders can more effectively navigate changing landscapes and inspire a learning culture within their teams.
Leaders should be accountable for their decisions, accepting responsibility for the outcomes of their actions. This principle promotes transparency and trust, and establishes leaders as role models for their teams.
Courage involves taking risks, making difficult decisions, and standing up for your beliefs in face of opposition. Courageous leaders can drive transformation, confront challenges and foster respect.
Leaders should embrace innovation, encouraging new ideas and driving change. By fostering a culture of innovation, leaders can keep their teams open to new opportunities, encouraging creativity and continuous improvement.
Leaders should foster collaboration, leveraging the collective skills of their teams to enhance productivity and innovation. Collaborative leaders promote teamwork and maximise the diverse skills within their team.
- Fairness and Equality
Leaders should ensure fairness and equality, making unbiased decisions and offering equal opportunities to all team members. This principle builds a sense of trust and justice within the team, promoting a more engaged and productive workforce.
- Emotional Intelligence
Leaders should have emotional intelligence to manage their own emotions and understand those of their team members. Leaders with high emotional intelligence can manage stress, inspire and motivate their team, and build stronger interpersonal relationships.
7. Guiding Principles for Teachers
- Respect for Each Student’s Individuality
This principle acknowledges and appreciates individual differences in students. It involves adapting teaching methods to cater to different learning styles and needs. By showing respect for each student’s individuality, teachers can motivate students and make learning more effective.
- Equity and Inclusion
Equity and inclusion focus on ensuring equal opportunities for all students, irrespective of their culture, gender, race, or abilities. This principle fosters an inclusive learning environment with diverse perspectives. By promoting equity and inclusion, teachers can help every student achieve his or her potential.
- Teaching Beyond the Textbook
Teaching beyond the textbook includes providing real-life examples, using multimedia resources, and conducting interactive activities. It enriches the curriculum and makes learning more engaging. By practicing this principle, teachers can move beyond rote learning and stimulate critical thinking among students.
Patience involves tolerating student mistakes, handling disruptions, and dealing with challenging behaviour calmly and constructively. This principle helps maintain a calm and conducive learning environment. By exercising patience, teachers build trust and encourage students to make progress at their own pace.
- Clear Communication
Clear communication aids in the effective delivery of knowledge, addressing student doubts, and providing constructive feedback. This vital principle can enhance the teaching-learning process. By communicating clearly, teachers can foster understanding and ensure essential concepts are grasped by students.
- Constructive Feedback
Constructive feedback involves giving positive and negative comments that aim to improve students’ learning. This principle ensures students understand their strengths and weaknesses. By providing constructive feedback, teachers can guide students in their academic growth.
- Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement includes praise, encouragement, or rewards to strengthen desirable student behaviors. This principle can boost student confidence and stimulate productive learning behaviors. By applying positive reinforcement, teachers can motivate students and reinforce good academic practices.
- Adaptable Teaching Strategies
Adaptable teaching strategies involve modifying teaching methods according to changing student needs, new educational research, or shifting classroom dynamics. This principle enhances the effectiveness of teaching. By being adaptable, teachers can keep lessons engaging and cater to the diverse learning needs of students.
- Sense of Humor
Using a sense of humor can make lessons lively, reduce stress, and create an enjoyable learning atmosphere. By integrating humor into teaching, teachers can make learning an engaging and enjoyable experience for students.
- Collaboration with Parents and Colleagues
Collaboration involves forming partnerships with parents and colleagues to support student learning. This principle ensures a consistent, supportive approach to a child’s education. By collaborating, teachers can encourage parental involvement and share useful strategies with peers.
- Cultural Sensitivity
Cultural sensitivity involves recognizing, valuing, and respecting cultural diversity among students. It also includes incorporating diverse cultural perspectives into the curriculum. By practicing cultural sensitivity, teachers can promote global awareness and mutual respect among students.
Dedication reflects commitment to the teaching profession, the school, and the success of each student. This principle, when consistently demonstrated, motivates students to work hard and fosters a positive learning atmosphere. Through dedication, teachers set an example for students about the value of hard work and commitment.
Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. (2002). The pursuit of meaningfulness in life. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 608-618). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Lepsinger, R., & Lucia, A. D. (1997). The Art and Science of Competency Models: Pinpointing Critical Success Factors in Organizations. Pfeiffer.
Schwartz, M. S. (2001). The nature of the relationship between corporate codes of ethics and behaviour. Journal of Business Ethics, 32(3), 247-262. doi: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1010787607771
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]