Leadership Tip #2: Civility
During these dark and dreary days, I’ve taken time to curl up with a good book or two. It’s the best way to relax and lose yourself in another world, another person’s life. As writers, we’re always told that if we’re not writing, we must be reading. Keeping the synapses well oiled and working effectively! As a young child, I used to take my books and a flashlight to the closet, knowing I’d be out of my mother’s way as she pursued her obsessive cleaning of the house.
As I got older, she already knew my hiding places and would sometimes throw a rag inside the closet and yell, “dust the what-nots!” For you millenials out there, a “what not” is a chotchka or something you collect like teacups or glass owls. (Not boyfriends or girlfriends!)
In one day last week I read all 335 pages of Amor Towle’s Rules of Civility, a tale of an ambitious young secretary from Brooklyn who falls in with a crowd of upper-class bright young things in late 1930s Manhattan. One of the love interests in the story is Tinker Gray who has relied on George Washington’s 100 Rules of Civility as a way of advancing himself into the upper crust. There are unusual twists and turns but what stood out for me was that our former president had actually compiled 100 rules! (I’m told he stole them from the French.) These rules can certainly be part of your toolbox as you develop and enhance your own leadership skills. The rules focus mostly on others, not oneself and, while they are rather dull and a bit old fashioned, they offer sound advice. Just a few that may tickle your fancy:
- The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon. (In other words, keep your hands to yourself; don’t flail about!)
- If any one come to Speak to you while you are are Sitting, Stand up though he be your Inferior, (Face to face is always better)
- When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well, blame not him that did it. (Umm, I think this means don’t throw blame at anyone. Figure out what needs to be done.)
- …if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasant abstain from Laughing thereat yourself. (Play the straight guy; let the others laugh.)
- Associate yourself with Men/women of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ‘is better to be alone than in bad Company. (self-explanatory)
There are 95 more, but I think you get the gist of it.
Stay in touch, read a book and share with others,