I have been researching best business practices for forty years. Most members of our People First International team hold advanced business degrees. Yet with all our studies on motivational strategies, would you believe that none of us has ever attended a lecture proclaiming the dignity and worth of people? Oh sure, people mention “the greatness of humanity” and drop clichés about “People are our greatest asset” in passing. But no one on our team ever sat in an MBA class or picked up a leadership book that began with a definition of what it means to be human as the axiom for human engagement.

I wrote such a book in 1997, titled Untapped Potential. The publisher, Thomas Nelson Inc., has a proud, 200-year history as one of the largest publishers of inspirational material in the world. My editor told me that Nelson had never—never—published a book about motivation and business development in which the author predicated his or her theory for sustainable success on a definition of what it means to be human. I had hoped that Untapped Potential would become the first of many books establishing this fundamental principle, but, to the best of my knowledge, it remains unique.

I wrote another book, People First, which continued to champion this people-centric philosophy. Then our team developed the People First Leadership program to help organizations turn these principles into the ultimate sustainable engagement strategy. Last year, in order to further advance this concept, I condensed my thoughts about what it means to be human into ten declarative statements. These propositions provide the source of ultimate engagement and people-based leadership.

The People First Human Value Declaration

(1)   All men, women, and children of all races and nationalities are created equal.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” — Martin Luther King, 1963

(2) Therefore, no one individual, race, or nationality is inherently superior to another.  No one is “more human” than another.

(3) Consequently, each one of us possesses the same exalted dignity and exalted worth.

(4) Moreover, we possess unique gifts, talents, and strengths.

(5) It follows, then, that our lives have profound meaning and purpose. All of our thoughts, choices, words, and actions are significant and influential.

(6) In addition, our lives are packed with untapped potential, and thus we are responsible for developing ourselves — mentally, physically, spiritually, socially, financially, and emotionally.

(7) Furthermore, our growth as human beings is unalterably related to how much and how well we listen to, honor, celebrate, serve, forgive, respect, and value other people and how well we help others to grow more meaningful, responsible, and virtuous lives. Our individual growth is also in proportion to how gracious we are towards others when they offend us.

(8) Hence, one of the best ways to humbly manifest that we are not living a self- absorbed life is by esteeming others more highly than ourselves and by seeking the well-being of others over our own.

(9) By behaving in this disciplined manner, we will demonstrate to others that all men, women, and children possess the same human value proposition.

(10) This consistent People First practice will encourage us all to maintain a more caring, sharing, honoring, trusting, respectful, loving, and humble world, in which we all live more productively, more joyfully, more peacefully, and contribute more effectively to each other’s enduring legacy of truth, wisdom and excellence in all things.