The Art of Being a Tactful Leader

Constructive Criticism to motivate others in a tactful wayWhen you give constructive criticism to another person, it’s not good enough to have “truth” on your side. You’ve got to know how to communicate it as well.

Make sure you know the art of being tactful. As Baltasar Gracian wrote, “Cultivate tact, for it is the work of culture…the lubricant of human relationships, softening contacts and minimizing friction.” He’s right.

The ancient Muslims used to tell a story to illustrate the importance of tact. A sultan called in one of his seers and asked how long he would live. “Sire,” said the fortune teller, “you will live to see all your sons dead.” The sultan flew into a rage and handed the fortune teller over to his guards to be executed.

He then called for a second seer and asked him the same question. “Sire,” said this fortune teller, “I see you blessed with long life, so long that you will outlive all your family.” The sultan was delighted and rewarded the fortune teller with gold and silver.

Obviously, both of the seers said the same thing. But one had tact; the other did not.

As a leader you’re always trying to bring out the best in others. That’s understood. Just remember, the motivation you build in others is not so much a function of what you say but how you say it.