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Keep to your principles and keep your roots intact.

“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” Victor Hugo

Values are guiding principles. Core Values are guiding principles that should be at the core, the heart, of your actions and decisions as a leader. It starts by being very clear on your personal Core Values and the organization’s Core Values and how they align. Core Values are nonnegotiable. They should serve as your roots.

As a leader you must, however, be willing to change your opinions. If you are mired in dogma and unwilling to change your opinions, then you are a boss, not a leader. As a result, you, and your team, will be stagnant. An unwillingness on your part to be open to new ideas and information, and a lack of willingness to change your opinion with ensure that psychological safety will not exist in your team. As a result, your team will be reluctant, or afraid (depending on how you react) to bring new ideas and suggestions forward and to ask difficult questions.

This is not about being the type of person who is continually changing their mind and jumping on and off the bandwagon based on how the political winds are blowing that day, or on whatever the popular opinion of the day is. This is about having strong beliefs, loosely held. This is about having the courage to change what you believe when you are confronted with new, more compelling facts, evidence, or research. This is about having the courage to stand up to the critics who will call you weak, or wishy-washy because you changed your opinion.

Despite the claim by some, that people will lose respect for you if you change your opinion or belief, the reality is that most people will have greater respect for someone who is willing to change his or her opinion based on new evidence. I once heard Peter Attia M.D., who I have the utmost respect for, state that he would never trust a scientist who is unwilling to change his or her opinion in light of new evidence. I feel the same way about leaders. I would never trust a leader who is unwilling to change his or her opinion in light of new, more compelling, evidence to the contrary and I am not alone in this belief.

If you want to be a leader you need to be willing to change your opinions and keep to your principles; change your leaves and keep your roots intact.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey.

Brian Willis

Register yourself, and your team for the Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop to get everyone on the same page regarding leadership and culture. If you are interested in hosting a live Dare to Be Great workshop reach out to me at