Leadership in an age of lewd and crude words and actions

We live in a world consumed with image and frankly I’m sick of it. I’m sick of people doing their best to “look good” but “aren’t good.”

I’m sick of the people who cry about the danger of climate change, as they continue to be the biggest users and abusers of energy. And I’m sick of the people who talk publicly about family values, as they privately engage in immoral behavior and sexual harassment.

But that’s where we are … and that’s where we’ve been … in today’s image-crazed society.  Lots of so-called leaders in Washington, in Hollywood, on the news, in business, and even in the church have spent more time and money on building their image than building their character.

Well, that’s about to change.  We’re entering a new and better world, I think … or at least I hope.

So let me suggest four things you’ve got to do to be a leader filled with character.  A person that can be trusted.  And a person that motivates the best in others.


1. You’ve got to remember that you’re being watched.

Your customers, your co-workers, subordinates, spouse, kids, friends, acquaintances, and everybody else are watching you.

As Joseph M. Tucci, the CEO of the information management firm EMC, says, “Every move you make, everything you say, is visible to all. Therefore, the best approach is to lead by example.”

And management consultant Darcy Hitchcock affirms that. She says, “Employees are professional ‘boss watchers.’ That is, what managers say means nothing … unless their actions model what they say.”

2. You’ve got to remember that people will talk about you.

They’ll talk about what you said and what you did.

Maybe not today.  Maybe not tomorrow.  Maybe it will take them 10, 20, 30, or 40 years to talk about you.  But very few lewd and crude comments and behaviors stay secret forever. Just watch the news recently and you’ll know what I mean.

And once the word gets out about your disrespectful leadership behavior, there will be a price to pay.

A famous baseball player had to learn that lesson the hard way.  Perhaps you remember the story.

Timmy’s favorite baseball player was Johnny Todd (name changed for the purposes of this Tuesday Tip). In Little League, he wore the same number as Todd. He collected Todd’s souvenir cards and memorized all of his stats. Timmy carried his baseball glove with him everywhere and hoped to one day meet his idol and get his autograph.

So the day he walked into Burger King and saw Todd seated at a booth in the corner, Timmy thought it was his lucky day. As he approached the table, an elderly man walked up to Todd and asked for his autograph.

“Look, can’t you see I’m eating.” Todd growled at the old man. Timmy stood motionless, his eyes wide with uncertainty. Why was Johnny so mean to that old man? Timmy wasn’t sure he wanted to know. Just before he turned to walk away, Todd looked at him and barked, “Hey kid, what are you staring at?”

Timmy was so disappointed that he decided to trade away all of his Johnny Todd cards for the cards of other players. Some of his fellow Little Leaguers did the same thing after hearing Timmy’s story.

A local paper picked up the story.  Then the incident found its way into Internet forums and chat rooms. It came to light that other folks had witnessed similar outbursts from Johnny Todd. For baseball enthusiasts, the dark side of Todd’s personality began to overshadow his athletic skills.

Then the minor incident catapulted into a major crisis for the celebrity. Sales of his jersey dropped; kids lost interest in collecting his cards, and the negative press made him less desirable to sponsors.

Unfortunately, Todd failed to realize that people are always watching us.  And people will always talk about us.  And their talk can have devastating consequences.

So that means…


3.  You need to be aware of the example you are setting. 

Are you setting an example of respect and kindness?  Do others see your inspiring, caring, thoughtful character in all you do and say?

If you’re not sure what they’re seeing in you, remember this.  Your character is revealed in the way you treat people.

As author Michael Josephson points out, “The way we treat people we think can’t help or hurt us (like housekeepers, waiters, and secretaries), tells more about our character than how we treat people we think are important. People who are honest, kind, and fair only when there’s something to gain shouldn’t be confused with people of real character who demonstrate these qualities habitually, under all circumstances.”

Unfortunately, a lot of people are unaware of the example they are setting.  They have no idea what people think of them or what they say about them behind their backs.

If you want a highly productive team at work or truly effective relationships at home, you can’t afford to live in such ignorance.

That’s why, in my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program, one of the many skills I emphasize is a particular question-answer-listening technique that will reveal and build your character and build all your personal and professional relationships in amazingly positive ways.

(F.Y.I.  My next Journey will be in April 2018 in the Kansas City area.  Click here to claim your seat before the official registration opens.)

4. You must learn how to ask brave questions.

Casey Cropp from Fort Collins, Colorado, did, and she’s glad she did. Casey wrote, “I am a high school band director and have been using the Brave Questions you taught in your Journey program with my classes. All I can say is ‘Thanks.’ You’ve given me the tool I’ve been looking for in 26 years of teaching, a tool that helps me approach my students in new and more effective ways.”

“Let me give you one example,” Casey writes. “This past fall I was directing the orchestra for our school musical. One afternoon I had the opportunity to spend some time with the orchestra members, getting to know each other using several of your questions. We spent about an hour and a half sharing and bonding as a group, learning details about each other. I was given information about individuals that helped me to understand their needs and allowed me to work closer with them in the preparation of their music. Our trust level of each other went way up and we became a team. The performances in October were astounding and I could not have been more proud of their growth through this time together.”

Certified Personal Trainer Jimi Varner also had great success asking Brave Questions. He says: “Using your Brave Questions from the Journey program, I have seen the miraculous effects it’s had on my relationship with my soon-to-be fiancé. Although practical and simple, we have found it extremely beneficial to all of our relationships and highly recommend it to anybody in need of urgent or not-yet-so urgent relationship repair!”

Back in the 1700’s, abolitionist John Woolman said, “Conduct is more convincing than language.”  He’s right.

So I urge you to live a life of character, leading others with character, having conduct that is so respected that you don’t have to try and talk yourself out of a nasty situation … ever.

Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 913 – Leadership in an age of lewd and crude words and actions