Good Habits #29: Smile

By | February 25, 2017

[February 25, 2017]  Someone once said that a smile is the language of kindness and that is certainly true.  Leaders of all stripes, to be successful, smile in order to be both approachable and motivational.  This is achieved easily for those willing to take the simple step of smiling.  Recent interpretations of ancient writings tell us that a smile is what leaders have used since time immemorial to pull people together for a great cause.

“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.” – Thomas Paine, American political philosopher, activist, and revolutionary

A smile is universal and it is associated with truthfulness, intelligence, and caring; all enduring leadership traits.  For some of us, smiling is a chore.  Even so, knowing that a smile is linked to success, every effort should be made to smile when possible (except in circumstances where it would be inappropriate).  Experience helps us determine when and how to smile and yes, there are different types of smiles.

U.S. General George S. Patton was known as a strict disciplinarian and intolerant of slackers who were unwilling to fight.  He was, in the vernacular of the times, a hard ass and was referred to commonly as “old blood and guts.”  His philosophy of leading from the front and his ability to inspire troops with vulgarity-ridden speeches is part of his enduring legacy (see the text of his June 5, 1944 speech to the troops prior to the Normandy Invasion, link here).  But it was his practiced smile, perfectly timed, that earned his the endearment of the men under his command.

Even the toughest leader among us has to develop that persona that anyone can approach them and say what they think, without filter, without holding anything back.  This is the epitome of a real leader; one who can push to accomplish the mission without hesitation and, to do that, a smile will occasionally make it easier to take for those who are doing the hardest tasks.

General Patton was preparing his men psychologically for the invasion that would eventually destroy the Nazi military machine.  In Patton’s speech in June ’44, at one point toward the end of his now famous speech, he paused and smiled and said:

“I don’t want to get any messages saying, ‘I am holding my position.’  We are not holding a Goddamned thing.  Let the Germans do that!  We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy’s balls!  We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all of the time…We are going to go through him like crap through a goose…”

Motivation at its best and done with a quick smile and a serious tone.  This is a real leader.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.