Some Bad Manners That Can Supercharge Your Leadership


There are new articles on Leadership every day. I read some of them, but less than I used to. The reason is that they are starting to sound increasingly same, same. What is your experience with this?

I agree with what they say, things like:

  • Demonstrate ability
  • Model excellence
  • Demonstrate confidence
  • More…

I think we all know about the more common sense items that a powerful and able Leader would foster in themselves. Yes to all of those items, among them using good manners. Maybe it is time to introduce a few manners that some would call bad manners. Here is a short list.

Telling the unvarnished truth – ouch sometimes, and yet tippy toeing around what is blatantly true, being nice, can downgrade the true nature of what has happened and what needs to happen. If the team is ‘truth averse’ , the Leader is not doing their job. Delivery of non-judgmental truth is almost an art form. The accomplished Leader is a master at this bad manner.

Rewarding truth telling in others – this is not about people bashing or making accusations atop the Boardroom table and throwing people under the bus. This is about the art of telling the simple truth and telling that truth more about the thing that is not working properly and less about the person in charge of that project. The Leader may need to teach this skill and these distinctions. One proven way to encourage a particular behaviour is to reward it and describe what the reward is for. The accomplished Leader models and teaches this bad manner.

‘Stay’ in the conversation even when the air is thick with discomfort. This demonstrates two things. One is that this must be made better and the other is that the Leader has confidence that the project leader can make it better with the help of the group. Staying in that silence and simply waiting is one mark of an accomplished Leader. To jump in and, for instance, rescue someone is a temptation that hooks many. That would not teach accountability.  Not all that easy sometimes and an amazing ability the Leader can teach to all direct reports and beyond. It can feel rude, bad manners, to just wait and wait.

Don’t always believe your people. What did I just say? When the team member communicates with the Leader they may sugar coat or they may want to withdraw, defer to someone else to solve things. When the Leader lets either of these slide by, the employee learns it is OK to do these and the organization weakens. When the Leader expresses confidence by saying “I don’t believe you are complete on this nor that you can’t take it another step, the employee must stop to reassess. Again, the Leader is teaching. It can feel harsh to employ this bad manners method. It does, if done well, grow people and thus strengthen the organization.

These seemingly rude behaviours in a Leader grow the people they work with. The organization gets stronger, more able across the board. I recommend that Leaders adopt some of these bad manners.

Joseph Seiler MCC