“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony,” said Gandhi. What happens when we apply that same definition to leadership? And how can we achieve that kind of leadership in our businesses?

One of the most impactful lessons I have learned as a leadership development coach is the importance of working with principles. Principles give our lives meaning and direction. They not only guide us in our actions and decisions, but they are also the foundation for creating a community in which we can thrive. People are drawn to those who act with integrity, whose values are evident in their actions.

Working with principles has helped me create a thriving network marketing business. I work with a principle-driven team, a community of people who attract others with the same values and who take pride in the work they do and the people they work with. Below are five principles that guide us daily.

Principle 1: Tell the Truth
Most people agree that honesty is an important principle, yet many don’t tell the truth. They act impulsively, doing what they want in the moment as a way to get short-term gain, relief, or pleasure, and they don’t think through the consequences. When caught or questioned, they feel guilty or worry about what others will think, and they lie.

The consequence is that trust is lost and relationships are damaged. By being truthful in your interactions, not only will you feel good about yourself, but others will also perceive you as trustworthy.

A mentor of mine used to say, “When it comes to telling the truth or not, the decision is easy. If you are about to do something you would lie about if caught, don’t do it!” The decision does not rest in whether or not to tell the truth but in whether or not to engage in the activity you might feel compelled to lie about.

Principle 2: Be Accountable
Have you ever been around people who are quick to point fingers and blame others for what is wrong in their lives? “If other people would just change, then everything would be fine.” Accountability is about taking responsibility for your life, your actions, and your results.

Years ago my husband and I were having a disagreement and he said to me, “It seems as though you think that if I would just change, then everything would be better.” My immediate thought was, “Yes, that’s true! Everything would be great if you would just change.” Then I stopped myself, because that thought felt disempowering. I realized there were actually things I could do to improve our relationship—and I got excited. I didn’t have to wait for him to do things differently in the future. I could take action this very moment. What a relief!

The more we take accountability for our lives, the more power we have. And yes, the world will sometimes present us with challenging situations that are out of our hands, but we always have choice in how we respond to them.

Principle 3: Seek First to Understand
Many of us crave recognition. We want people to see us, to appreciate our perspective, to hear us. In order to make this happen, we advocate our position, drive our agenda, and try to get others to understand us.

What can be more effective is, as Stephen Covey used to say, to seek first to understand—and only then to be understood. When I am talking with someone about my business, I first try to learn about this person’s dreams, challenges, and aspirations before sharing what I have to offer. This deepens our connection.

True listening is an art. Sometimes we pretend to listen as we wait for the person to say something we can refute or seize upon to make our point. We are listening only as a means to then push our agenda. Listening in order to understand involves putting our own thoughts, judgments, and opinions aside with the intention to genuinely understand the other person, regardless of whether or not we agree.

Principle 4: Be of Service
When you are feeling low or when things are not going your way, find someone to help. Instead of asking yourself, “How can I make my life better?” ask, “How can I be of service?”

Recently I was going through a difficult situation in my business and feeling distraught. As luck would have it, I had scheduled a coaching session with one of my distributors. In that moment, coaching was the last thing I wanted to do—but someone was counting on me, and I didn’t want to disappoint her.

As we sat together, I listened and offered my thoughts. At the end of the hour, she felt better—and so did I! Taking a break from what was troubling me allowed me to broaden my perspective. Giving my focus to someone else was the perfect solution.

Principle 5: Practice Gratitude
Taking time to contemplate the good things in our lives can do much to raise our spirit. Often we are striving for something in the future, focusing on what we lack, how we want things to be different, and we forget to appreciate what we have.

Imagine what would happen if instead of seeing others’ faults, we acknowledged their strengths and what we appreciate in them. Not only does this appreciation feel good to the person receiving it, it also brings a greater sense of happiness to the one doing the appreciating.

Ask yourself, “What am I grateful for?” and share your gratitude with others. Celebrate the life you have, the people who bring meaning to it, and the hope and possibilities of tomorrow.

Look for the next five leadership principles in a future issue under Principle-Based Leadership, Part 2.

KATIE FREDRICKSEN got involved in network marketing in 2009
and quickly became a top earner in her company.
Her background is in teaching, coaching, training, and mentoring
top executives across industries, helping them to work
collaboratively and improve productivity.