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“The opposite of good manners isn’t bad manners; it’s meanness.” Freedom of choice and social tolerance are a significant part of my personal philosophy, but with a major sticking point: freedom of choice comes with the obligation to face its consequences – no safety net provided. My philosophy has changed little over my lifetime, while my intolerance for incivility has grown. We are sliding toward increasingly mean-spirited, rude, and self-centered behavior coupled with reluctance to calling others out for their rudeness1. We have political leaders who take pride in their boorish behavior, others who hold us in contempt if we disagree with them, and still others who feel no obligation to answer the questions asked of them. Recently, testy campus protesters have reappeared on the scene clamoring for “safe spaces” to protect themselves from the “micro aggressions” of the day – often, by invading the safe spaces (i.e., offices) of deans and other college administrators. Then there are the ongoing public debates about important issues such as climate change, gay marriage, and abortion where each side talks past the other and treats it with disdain. These things are not about institutionalized intimidation or political correctness, but the loss of everyday civil behavior along the lines of treating others as though they too matter. I had been thinking about the state of American civility and civil ineffectiveness, when I was honored by an invitation to speak to a group of students in their second year at a major university’s MBA program. They had signed up for a course titled – Principled Leadership for Business and Society. That’s an important topic, one that aligns with my interest, and something that I thought I might have thoughts and experience to share that would interest the students. After all, who wouldn’t want to be a principled leader or to have the pleasure of working for one? According to the syllabus, one of the questions the course answers is along the lines of: What inclines us to follow some people and not others? Given the title of the course, an implicit assumption is that being principled is a plus when it comes to being an effective leader; i.e.., someone who earns the loyalty of com-mitted, competent, and enthusiastic followers. Manners Matter The first principle of effective leadership By Tom DeCotiis 28 Submit your Articles Leadership Excellence Essentials presented by HR.com | 01.2016


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