Our Social Contract: Learning and Leading with Values

Over the last eighteen months, and for some longer, members of the Leadership Division contributed to developing our core values– the specific behaviors we care about most.  These values would serve as the principles we seek to define our culture and working environment, and how we work together and with others to advance our mission.  Most recently, COVID-19, the pervasive violence against Black people, and the challenges of inequity and injustice, required us to reflect on whether we were truly living up to our values.  The deep, historical, and systemic racial inequities in our society were laid bare when our social contracts were broken, requiring us to assess the work we do, how we do it, and for whom.  If we are to realize a free, just, and equitable society, we must begin with ourselves.  The journey towards realizing an equitable organization is messy and long.  We are committed to learning together and to supporting the necessary changes internally.  We recruit people who are motivated by our mission and who seek to make a positive change in the world.  As we considered the feedback, we realized that there are some fundamental personal attributes that serve as the “entry-ticket” to joining the Division.  These attributes are:

  • Respect: We respect the mission, values, and work of the Aspen Institute, and the perspectives, lived experiences, and opinions of our colleagues and others with whom we work and engage.
  • Integrity: We act consistently in accordance with our values, holding ourselves and each other to the highest standards of responsibility and accountability.
  • Excellence: We accept and strive for the highest standards of excellence in our work.
  • Authenticity and Honesty: We are truthful and aspire to bring our genuine selves – our values, experiences, perspectives – to benefit and inform our work. In short – be you.
  • Presence and Intentionality: We are fully present and mindful when we engage, communicating and making decisions with awareness, clarity and purpose, with consideration given to the impact on others and their work.

The following are the core values of the Leadership Division. We will continue to learn through feedback and by constantly holding up a mirror to ourselves to ensure we are living up to our ideals.  We commit to them in all we do.

  • Service: We share a commitment to a purpose and mission that are greater than ourselves; our leadership is defined by good stewardship and service to others.
  • Courage: We have the courage to act in accordance with our values, and do not shy away from decisions, hard conversations, and actions that reflect what we know is right. We lead by example and confront behavior that runs counter to what we value and what we expect from each other.
  • Humility: We believe that a powerful force of leadership is listening to and understanding others. We know we don’t have all the answers and recognize that our success is a result of the contributions and support of others.
  • Cura Personalis: We care for the whole person; embracing the wonder and humanity of each of us. We recognize the importance of generosity and curiosity, and strengthen our relationships through compassion, kindness and empathy.
  • Inclusion: We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We recognize that our excellence is enabled by speaking and hearing our truths, questioning our biases, ensuring all voices are included in decisions and actions, and by breaking down systemic barriers against fairness and justice.
  • Transparency: We are open and honest when we work together; we share our intentions and knowledge, and accept the trust placed in us that greater transparency requires.
  • Collaboration: We embrace the opportunities to work together and to help each other without agenda or reward. We recognize we are better and stronger when we work together.

When we live our values, we build safety and trust, with which we can build a more equitable, just, and free society.