I was recently talking with a student who had been seeking an employment opportunity near her hometown.

She had been searching for an extended time, and thankfully, the opportunity arose to not only move home but to do so with a great job inside a solid company. She was excited to have found a means to support her children and apply her considerable skills near her extended family.

She was also a Krav Maga Houston student who had been slowly building her ETHOS for the past 12 months. And, as things often do, something went wrong. The company making her the offer had referenced the wrong agency in the offer letter, and after attempting to clarify the issue, she learned the company had not made a mistake (but had sourced the transaction through a firm with which a prior relationship existed).

Cali (we’ll call her that) felt uncomfortable; usually a sign that ones values are under attack. As a result, she declined the job. This was a powerful statement and revealed significant character. But, as I spoke with Cali, I wanted to encourage her to shift her thinking into warrior mode. Before her was a challenge, perhaps through pure happenstance. And, as a warrior, she needed to act.

While I am always careful in seeking “the middle way” which can be a means of compromising values, in this case, I encouraged Cali to lead with her ETHOS. That is, to exemplify personal leadership by bringing the conflict to the attention of the company in a novel way. To be more specific, I asked if it she would be willing to demonstrate both her personal leadership and integrity (part of leadership) in resolving the conflict between the company making the offer and the agency that was overlooked. If the company didn’t value her integrity and leadership in working together to resolve this issue, what would that indicate about the company (and its value system). Conversely, if the company saw Cali’s leadership and integrity on display (before a formal relationship was consummated) as valuable, the future would appear bright for Cali with her new employer. And, she could confidently accept the job, knowing that there was substantial alignment of collective values.

In the end, if we can not only reject those things that are in conflict with our ETHOS but also work to resolve the conflict when possible, we not only lead with our ETHOS – we lead by example and from the front, while creating solutions that call attention to the injustice around us. The link between ETHOS and personal leadership is powerful and unavoidable. So, if you’ve been thinking about ETHOS, start considering how to lead. It’s coming soon and in ways you’ve yet to even consider. Be ready and lean into your ETHOS as you seek the middle way.

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  1. Mark Norman

    Excellent advice.