When I was four-and-a-half years old, I went with my mother to the local Sampson’s supermarket in Livermore Falls, Maine. While shopping, I did what any youngster would do; I asked for everything that caught my attention. Our family lived on extremely modest means and, as a result, my mother repeatedly declined my requests.

While standing in the checkout line, I became enticed by a package of juicy fruit gum. My little hand reached for the gum and placed the packet in my pocket. We left Sampson’s and headed home with my hidden treasure stored safely in my pocket.

While my mother was putting away the groceries, I sat on the living floor, opening my ill-gotten gains. It did not take long for my mother to catch me red-handed with a mouthful of chewing gum. After a lengthy interrogation process, I confessed my sins.

My mother made me spit out the gum, and she confiscated the rest. But it didn’t end there. My mother drove me back to Sampson’s and made me confess my crime to the store manager. I paid the 10 or 12 cents for the gum, and we drove home in silent tears. Little to my knowledge, 50 plus years ago, my ideology began to form.

Your Core Ideology

Over time, I became more conscious of my belief system and how it continued to evolve. I started to understand the power of belief in driving success in my personal and professional life. I began to refer to this belief system as our core ideology.

A French philosopher first coined the term “ideology” during the time of enlightenment. Ideology was defined as “knowledge about ideas.” The intent was to map different forms of ideas in an organized and systematic way of knowledge.

Centuries later, much of how we describe ideology has remained the same. Today, Merriam-Webster defines ideology as: A manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture.

Based on the work of Willard A. Mullins, ideology must have four primary characteristics:

  1. Power over cognition; (Our Thinking)
  2. Guiding one’s evaluations; (Our Decisions)
  3. Guidance toward actions; and (Our Actions)
  4. Logically coherent. (Must be Congruent)

As I got older and wiser, the concept of ideology became less of an abstract concept taught in business school; instead, it became more concrete and a powerful, tangible tool that I leverage every day. Based on the work of Mullins, I created a personal and corporate ideology that focused on three key ideas: vision, purpose, and values:

  • Your vision, which is the manifestation of your ideology; (Where are you going?)
  • Your purpose, which is the expression of your ideology; and (Why are you going there?)
  • Your values, which are the foundation of your ideology; and (How are you getting there?)

Just as I developed my doctrine and the core ideology for my business, you can too. Of course, your set of beliefs will be unique to you, but they must be intentionally developed.

For more on zeroing in on your vision, click here to check out my latest blog.

What do we stand for?

Many leadership programs, business schools, books, and consulting firms lead us to develop vision and mission statements. Most often, these exercises become nothing more than a “check the box” requirement and content for a website. And usually, they are far removed from establishing a belief system or ideology.

However, if you have thoroughly developed your core ideology, it drives your behaviors and actions. It serves as the barometer by which you will measure all your choices. It will be that iron string that vibrates with self-trust. It’s the deep place you can go to regain your balance when the daily waves and storms of life threaten to push you off-course.

Related Reading: All Desired Change Starts with You

Intentional leaders know what they stand for unequivocally and unapologetically. They don’t tolerate situations, behaviors, or individuals that are counter to their personal code of law. Your ideology is the reason, for example, that you:

  • Bring your child to the local supermarket to confess their transgressions and pay for that pack of gum
  • Help the cashier when they have given you the wrong change
  • Say “yes” to some personal and professional choices, while vehemently saying “no” to others
  • Follow your instincts and stay true to yourself, even when everyone around you is going the opposite way
  • Leave job a job because you are forced to walk an ethical tightrope

The more you lean into your core ideology, the more you will get to know yourself, and the more nuanced your thinking will become. When you create clarity around vision, purpose, and values, you will have connected to your own code of law—your inner authority.

Whenever I need a powerful example of conviction and inner authority, I reference Martin Luther King Jr. and his fierce beliefs—notably, his foundational vision that humanity would eventually progress toward the “Beloved Community.” King’s conviction was extraordinary, considering the many threats of violence against him. I find that kind of conviction and that outward manifestation of inner authority inspiring. What about you?

Find Your Authority

Deep down, I think we all want to have that kind of conviction. Without question, we all want to know and act with high inner authority. And yet, most of the people I encounter in my leadership programs have no idea what their or their company’s core ideology is. Many times, they’re not even aware that they need one.

Today is the day you can change that! It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you are too reticent to start. Like you, I used to tell myself that I would start something tomorrow or do this next week. Now, I ask myself what is stopping me from starting right now.

Here are three questions to contemplate to get you started:

  1. What do you want to be remembered for at your 100th birthday?
  2. What are three most meaningful moments in your life?
  3. What are two or three values lessons that you learned from your family?

Write down your answers and begin your intentional leadership journey. No matter what you hope to accomplish, don’t get bogged down in perfection. The answer to your core ideology is likely closer than you may think. It’s been a part of you since the very beginning. Just keep moving forward.

So… what’s your gum story and what does it tell you about your ideology?