Never Let Them See You Sweat

By | October 29, 2018

[October 29, 2018]  Sometimes you have a noteworthy idea, one that is difficult to put into words.  I certainly do.  In 1984, I had one of those aha-moments while watching television and saw a Gillette underarm-deodorant commercial.  Never let them see you sweat was their tagline and is now a famous slogan.  It put into words what I had been looking for.1

DAN REEVES (Head Coach, Denver Broncos): I think there’s three nevers to being a winning coach. Never let the press pick your starting quarterback. Never take a last place team lightly. And, really, no matter what the score, never let ‘em see you sweat.  ANNOUNCER: That’s what new Dry Idea aerosol is all about. It keeps you drier than the leading aerosol.  REEVES: Everyone feels pressure. Winners don’t let it show.  ANNOUNCER: Dry Idea. Never let them see you sweat.

Wow, that sure was a flashback to an earlier time.

More important to me was the idea – not new to leadership – that as a leader you are in charge of matters of great concern and yet show little emotion or stress.  When a leader acts calmly and confidently in a crisis, people will recognize emotional coolness under fire and will rely upon that person as a decisive leader.

A leader that can remain levelheaded and calm when the pressure gets turned up, is highly respected and desirable.  Never let them see you sweat is a slogan captures this sentiment well.  It is similar to showing good sportsmanship and maintaining grace under fire.

Conversely, when leaders lose their cool, bad things happen.  When emotions take over, the results are unpredictable and often the byproduct is not what anyone wants.  People observe the behavior of leaders closely and emulate them; the good and the bad.

The lesson is, of course, to never let ‘em see you sweat.  Never let your emotions take control of you.  Leadership is not a given and it’s not because of a declaration (like, I’m in charge) but because good leaders handle things calmly.  That way, people willingly follow their lead.

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  1. In 1984, the Gillette Company launched a new series of TV commercials for its Dry Idea antiperspirants that introduced the ad slogan: Never let them see you sweat.” According to the Gillette’s trademark registration for the slogan, it was “first used in commerce” on June 7, 1984.
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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.

21 thoughts on “Never Let Them See You Sweat

  1. Danny Burkholder

    Another relevant, great article today. Thank you Gen. Satterfield for making my morning coffee break that much better.

  2. Roger Yellowmule

    If we look back over time as best we can (read books and watch older movies) we can see this idea applied over and over again. The best leaders are those that kept their cool under the most extreme circumstances. Most of us are like “wow” how do they keep their act together. That might be a subject for the future.

  3. Willie Shrumburger

    You would think this is common sense but it is amazing how many folks have no clue about this issue or any other that deals with leadership. Senior leaders are especially overlooked in this department.

    1. Gil Johnson

      When it comes to leadership as a subject, often common sense doesn’t work very well. At least that is my opinion. I have found that those crucial traits must be learned and often learned the hard way. So, when leaders fail and they are good leaders, they learn from these failures.

  4. Fred Weber

    Sometimes television commercials can be educational and I think this is one of those times. Well done.

    1. Army Captain

      Thanks guys for the good links to reinforce Gen. Satterfield’s main points.

  5. Kenny Foster

    An informative article today and one that I’ve been pushing in my workplace. But it also applies everywhere from the most junior to especially the most senior leader.

    1. Drew Dill

      While I think it applies to all leaders as you noted Kenny, I think it is most applicable to senior leaders. I say that because they are more visible during a crisis (or emergency). That is when others need the trust and confidence that the senior leader knows what he is doing and will succeed.

  6. Max Foster

    This is mostly about the perception of a leader under stress. If people believe a leader (or anyone for that matter) can easily handle a problem, then they are more likely to follow. Read about emergencies anywhere and you will see this happen.

    1. Greg Heyman

      As both you and Gen. Satterfield have noted, this is about HOW others see you as a leader. In my book that is important and I don’t think anyone would argue that point. But what drives those perceptions is what is at issue. Keeping a cool and calm persona helps. This is built upon relevant experience and confidence in what you do. Thanks for a great article today.

    2. Bryan Lee

      Good points here in this section of the comments. I too believe perception matters a great deal.

  7. Nick Lighthouse

    Good article today that I love to talk about to my team members. This is part of growing up as a leader.

  8. Dale Paul Fox

    Funny thing is that I remember it too. Great blog post.

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