Leadership Sabotage


Leadership is hard enough without doing things to sabotage your own credibility, and yet I see people in positions of leadership doing just that everyday. How? Incivility. Rude, snarky, passive-aggressive, condescending, or just plain mean behavior. We don’t accept that behavior from our children, and yet a growing number of people in positions of leadership seem to think it is okay for them. It’s not.

When incivility goes unchecked, it spreads like a virus, especially when the “carrier” is someone in a position of leadership. Those of us who strive to be leaders bear a special responsibility to model the type of behavior we expect from our people. Let me be clear: Incivility has nothing to do with making difficult decisions, being firm in your convictions, having high standards, or whether or not you agree with someone. You can do all of those things and still conduct yourself in a manner that would make your mother proud.

Civility (or lack thereof) is far more a reflection on you than it is on the person with whom you are interacting. Your behavior is one of the primary ways others determine if you are someone they want to follow, someone they can trust to help them meet their goals and those of your organization. Your top performers are also the ones who have the highest bar for who they are willing to follow. People don’t leave organizations – they leave supervisors – and your best people will be the first to go if the leader fosters or allows a culture of incivility. That, my friends, is self-induced leadership sabotage.

Civility keeps the focus where it should be — on the work at hand. Incivility is personal and pulls attention away from the issue that needs to be addressed. It takes a confident leader to be kinder than necessary while also moving the organization forward. It also takes a smart one. Supportive work environments increase staff engagement, productivity, and ultimately organizational success.

Sure we all have bad days and make the occasional comment we wish we had kept to ourselves. Leaders people want to follow apologize when that happens and make sure such behavior is the exception, not the rule. Incivility isn’t about “them.” It is about “us.” Be the example you would like to follow.

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