The Best Leaders are Courteous

By | December 29, 2018

[December 29, 2018]  The Boy Scout Law has 12 values that each scout swears to each day.  The 5th one is courteous.  Since the beginnings of humankind began, it has been a basic understanding that to get along with others, earn their respect, and be free of mind; then one must be courteous to all.

“The true greatness of a person is evident in the way he or she treats those with whom courtesy and kindness are not required.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin, American businessman and religious leader

Joseph Wirthlin, a smart and religious man, understood the value of courteousness.  The idea that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14) is one of the keys to salvation; something he spoke about often.  In every religion, there are passages in the holiest of books that speak to the idea that to be courteous is essential for those who are closest to salvation.

One might think that the old religions of the past are backward, unworkable, or beneath our contempt but religions are an outgrowth of millennia of trial and error in human relationships.  Every leader worth their position, knows that courteousness takes little effort and yet yields great rewards.

“A Scout is courteous.  He is polite to all, especially to women, children, old people, and the weak and helpless.  He must not take pay for being helpful or courteous.” – Boy Scouts of America from Scout Law History

Earlier this year I wrote about how our Boy Scouts re-learned this lesson during their Summer Camp in the woods (see link here).  With the mosquitoes, wasps, and critters that bite, the heat and humidity, sleeping in the open, being dirty and grimy, our scouts and adult leaders found it especially challenging to be courteous.  We practiced it and learned that the best way to get along was to be courteous to all.

I know of no highly successful leader who fails to be courteous.  I know of many who won their position of great authority and autonomy because they understood that courtesy is the grease that allows the machinery of human interaction to work smoothly.  This is an essential element of leadership.

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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.

17 thoughts on “The Best Leaders are Courteous

  1. Terri Issa

    Three very simple words that go a long, long way: please AND thank you.

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      Williamson’s book is just out in paperback. I read it a week ago. Thanks.

    2. Yusaf from Texas

      I also read the book. Great and highly recommended.

  2. Dale Paul Fox

    Simple courteousness expresses the respect necessary for individuals to work together. Small businesses often require the entire staff to work in close proximity, which means individuals need to be even more respectful of the needs and feelings of those around them than if they were separated by larger spaces. Keeping a well-ordered area and speaking quietly while others work are examples of being respectful.

  3. Martin Shiell

    Here is a business article that lists 5 things that make you a more successful businessperson. Of the five, courteousness is listed as number 3. I found it to be also the grease of the wheels of people working with each other.

  4. Tracey Brockman

    If I had to pick one (and only one) character of a leader, I’m not sure it would be ‘courteous’ but courteous would certainly be up in the top 5 or so. Well done with this article.

  5. Willie Shrumburger

    Great article today. I might suggest to readers of this leadership blog to take a look at the daily favorites today. Gen. Satterfield has listed a couple of articles on the ‘broken window’ theory and how it has made US cities safer. Now there are those who will reject the very idea that makes them safer. This is an example of leaders being unprepared despite being courteous.

  6. Janna Faulkner

    Be courteous, be prepared, be ready. That is what leaders do … at least the successful ones anyway.

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