3 Keys to Creating a Culture of Civility

Leaders Establish the Atmosphere

At the 2017 Global Leadership Summit, Bill Hybels stated, “Our troubled world is demanding a better brand of leadership.

Tag – you’re it.

Instead of responding to the atmosphere, we must establish the atmosphere. That’s what leaders do. Leadership is an action, not a position. It’s easy to act like a backseat driver when it comes to criticizing the mess leaders make with poor decisions, irrational statements, and bone-headed behavior. Blame will get us nowhere. You can take the driver’s seat in establishing a culture of civility. Leadership at any level starts with leading yourself well.

We are all shapers of culture. We won’t change the world by arguing more brilliantly. We will change the world by demonstrating love and compassion in our sphere of influence.

Rudeness is rampant. Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and author of Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace reports that in 1998, 25% of those surveyed were treated rudely at work at least once a week. That figure rose to 55% in 2011 and 62% in 2016. One of the top things people require from their workplace is a sense of safety. Thus, the cost of all this strife is two-fold. It creates disengaged employees, higher absenteeism, lower productivity and higher turnover in the workplace. The second issue – it spreads. Disgruntled employees carry their frustration into their homes and community. Negativity has become viral, in a sick sort of way.

3 Keys to Creating a Culture of Civility

Changing the culture around us –  whether it’s our family, our office, our community, or a nation – starts with intentionality. You can’t just post a list of rules and expect culture to change. Leaders set the tone by choosing to speak kindly, exercise patience, and hold themselves to a high standard – in talk and action.

Servant leadership has been talked about for decades yet many have never actually seen it demonstrated. Selflessness is the expression of servant leadership. It means caring for others beyond what seems fair and meeting people where they are. It sounds noble. Walking it out is tough. It’s sacrificial. It calls us to carry an attitude of humility on a daily basis.

The third step is leading with character and integrity. Walking with integrity means you are consistent, fair, and trustworthy.  Character inspires confidence and can create an atmosphere of positive expectancy.  General Douglas McArthur defined this well when he said, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”

Creating a culture of civility won’t happen overnight. But it can be done. You might wonder if you can actually change the world.  In the words of a folk song written in 1955,
“Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me;
let there be peace on earth,
the peace that was meant to be.

With God our creator,
family all are we.
Let us walk with each other
in perfect harmony.”

This song received the George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge for “Outstanding achievement in helping to bring about a better understanding of the American Way of Life.”  It was written by an ordinary person and spread across the globe. A great example of leading with what you have, from where you are, with the talents you have.

A culture of civility begins with you. Start today.

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