Courtesy – Excellence of manners or social conduct; polite behavior. Random House Dictionary

“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” says John Maxwell. He’s right. The temperament of a leader is an important ingredient that goes a long way in determining his or her success. In short, behaviors and attitudes matter.

Too often sadly, we hear the stories of workplace bullying and other behaviors that are contributing to poor morale and working conditions. As a leader it is important to be aware of your surroundings and your workplace culture. Now is a good time to be reminded of simple courtesies that make a difference. Here is a list of 10 common courtesies every leader should remember. The list is not exhaustive but is a good place to start. They are in no particular order:

1 How to say “thank you”, “please”, “you’re welcome” etc

It should go without saying but these polite yet simple forms of communication are essential words in the vocabulary of every leader. Use them often and use them with sincerity. They are still relevant and meaningful.

2 Return your phone calls and emails

How many times has this happened to you? You leave a voicemail or send an email and you go days or weeks without a response. How did it make you feel? Nothing screams “you don’t matter” any louder than the silence of being ignored. A courteous leader will return calls and emails. For a great resource I recommend my friend Dr Monica Seeley (the Email Doctor) – you can find her blog at

3 The timing of your words

One of the courteous things you can do as a leader is to speak words of encouragement to those around you. The timing of a kind word to a colleague can be just the thing he or she needs to make it through the day or through a difficult time. Be aware of the needs of those around you and don’t be afraid to speak a kind word.

4 The timing of your silence

As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, there is a time to keep silent and a time to speak. As a leader, there will be times when the best thing you can do is to hold your tongue and not say a word. You can be just as courteous by what you don’t say as you can by what you do say. As a leader you have to learn the appropriateness of the moment.

5 The value of time

A courteous leader is considerate of other people’s time and knows how to manage their own. Showing courtesy as a leader means that you value and respect other people’s time and won’t waste it. You’ll show up to meetings on time and you won’t waste it on trivial things that don’t matter.

6 The giving of your undivided attention

On so many levels we are losing the art of being present in the moment. We are losing the art of conversation. The better connected we are through technology the more distant we’ve become relationally. Don’t believe me? Try having a 30-minute lunch with a group of friends without each person checking their mobile device repeatedly. A courteous leader will put away the phone or any other distractions and give others their undivided attention.

7 How to stay out of other people’s business

Gossip and office politics have been around for a long time. A courteous leader will stay out of it. If it’s not your business then don’t make it your business. If it is your business then use it as a teachable moment to show the proper way to handle it.

8 How to let things go

Extending courtesies as a leader can be challenging. But one of the wisest things you can do is to learn how to let things go. Don’t be so hell bent on winning the battle that you lose the war. Consider the issue and measure your response. Learn how to forgive and move on. You’ll be happier in the long run.

9 Keep your word

Courteous leaders are reliable and keep their word. Be slow to make promises and if you do – follow through and do it. Reasonable people understand that circumstances change and things come up that you didn’t anticipate but as far as it depends on you do what you say you are going to do.

10 Be kind

It’s simply stated because it is. A courteous leader is kind, considerate and helpful to others. It’s the little things you do as a leader that make a big difference. It begins with common courtesy.

What do you say?

Doug Dickerson is a certified Maxwell Leadership Speaker, Trainer, and Coach. He resides with his wife in the beautiful Lowcountry of South Carolina, USA. He and his wife, Alicia, are the owners of The Success Center – a full-service tutoring center for ... (Read More)

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