I realize this is an unusual post on a business growth website, but if you’ll hang with me for a moment, I think you’ll understand.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on cursing and how it can, when used in the right place and time, be advantageous to motivate and inspire people. I’m sorry, but I respectfully disagree.
Part of being an educated person involves developing a well-honed vocabulary and a sharp mind—such that one can choose the right words at the right time in order to construct a cogent argument to influence another person (or other people) to accept/agree with their idea.
If the only way a “leader” can influence/motivate/inspire someone is by using foul language, then I would submit that “leader” has some other problems that ought to be addressed (for example, their ability to create an argument that can persuade others or their ability to accept someone else’s idea as better than theirs—also known as humility, etc.).
But there is no reason why any business leader needs to resort to using foul language in the workplace. None!
Would You Do It In Front of a Film Crew
To me, this is a great litmus test. Watch politicians. Behind closed doors, way too many curse. But if you put a TV camera on them, all of a sudden their language changes. Interesting, isn’t it?
The same thing happens in business. Owners and executives will curse a blue streak at their employees or during a staff meeting, but put them in front of a group of potential investors or an annual meeting of shareholders and all of a sudden, their language changes. Amazing, isn’t it?
I’ve watched this happen for decades. In my former career, as a pastor of a large church, everyone changed their language when I was in the room. And if they ever did curse, almost every single one of them would apologize. Why? Because not only do all of us have the ability to control our language, we also know there are certain words which are good words and other words which aren’t. Words matter because they all have meaning attached to them.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve checked this lately or not, but the English language currently has over one million word choices available to you and to me. One million words. I find it unconscionable that any educated person would argue that there aren’t better words available for them to use.
Expect The Best From Yourself
The primary reasons why most leaders choose to curse are because
- They’re lazy (“Why invest brain cells coming up with a better argument”)
- They don’t think they can control their emotions (“I’m angry and I have to give full vent to my anger”)
- They’ve been led to believe that this is what leaders do (“This is what my boss used to do”)
- They’ve been told “everybody does it” (how lame is that?)
- They’ve lost an argument and think they can berate others into submission
- They think it will earn them status as “one of the boys” (an argument frequently used by female executives)
As you read that list, did you really think any of those reasons were valid? I hope not because not one of them stands on its own two feet.
Part of the reason why I would argue that you (or any leader) ought to eliminate curse words from your vocabulary is because I want you to expect the best from yourself. Being both a leader and an educated person, you ought to want to aspire to something more. You ought to want to aspire to developing the kind of self-control that allows you to keep your emotions in check so that you’re calm in a crisis or can handle an employee’s insubordination, etc.
You ought to want to develop a well-honed vocabulary so you can express any idea clearly and concisely—without needlessly ticking someone else off. You ought to want to set an example of the kind of person that the people you’re leading would want to aspire to become (i.e. the goal is not to become “one of the boys.”). And you ought to want to gain such a sharp mind that you can command, at will, the right words at the right time, so you can persuade anyone at any time about anything.
In other words, there’s no reason why you or any leader should resort to cursing. Laziness, lack of control, low self-esteem, lack of being able to construct a cogent argument are all pretty lame excuses. Instead, you should expect more of yourself (that is, if you’re currently a cursor).
Choose To Be A Real Leader
Real leaders are not bullies!!! They don’t shout at, beat down, demean, belittle, or embarrass their employees or direct reports—and that includes not using curse words directed at individuals (especially those that involve the word “you” as in “You ____” or “______ you.”).
Real leaders bring out the best in their employees. They value them and their contributions. They don’t demean their employees, they breathe life into them because leadership is all about creating leverage. And no one gets the best leverage from anyone else by tearing them down or mocking them or embarrassing them.
On the other hand, respecting the dignity of another person, helping them, encouraging them, believing in them, empowering them, drawing out the best that is in them—that is not only what real leaders do—it’s also the best path to creating the best result. And since a leader’s job is to create results through other people, there’s no reason why you should ever curse in your workplace.
Moreover, you never know when you have someone like me in your audience (or as an employee). Yes, there are some people who don’t mind coarse language, but there are plenty of us who feel sorry for any leader who can’t choose to better express themselves than to resort to a four letter word. Out of over a million words, I feel sorry for any educated leader who can’t conjure up a better word option. So, why would you or any leader want to needlessly lose “leadership points” for being lazy at language.
Set the Standard
Forget Hollywood, being “one of the boys,” and/or being liked. Those targets are all way too low. As the leader of your business, I want to encourage you to shoot for respect. Set the standard. Be the model you want your people to aspire to.
- Demonstrate self-control and never lose your cool
- Bring back civility to the workplace
- Respect the dignity of other people
- Develop a great grasp of the English language (or whatever language you speak in your workplace if you’re reading this from a different country)
- Refuse to be drawn down to the lowest common denominator
- Construct arguments that persuade people
- Cast vision so it inspires and motivates
- See the best in others
I can think of no situation where, as a business leader, your effectiveness is hindered by you choosing to aspire to something more.
Now, if you’re a curse-free leader, congratulations! But if you’re not, may I encourage you to make a commitment today to being a curse-free leader. You, your business, your people, your productivity, your effectiveness, your example, your profits, etc. they’ll all go up when you choose to expect something more from you and your people.
To a curse-free workplace (and your accelerated success!)