What Happens When Leaders Model Civility?


While working with a client this week, I conducted follow-up sessions with the participants of a workshop I recently presented. As with many conversations, these dialogues took a turn from the original agendas and evolved into more meaningful exchanges of ideas. Some of the discussions sounded like this:

People just pass me in the hallway and never say hi.”

“I’ve had phone conversations where I ask the other person about their weekends, but they never reciprocate and ask me about mine.”

“No one seems to care about me personally. We are just expected to get our work done.”

“The workplace is just cold.”

 Why was this happening at an organization that was relatively small in size in a building that was perfect for team connections?

 Why is it even important to be kind and nurturing to people we work with?

 How do leaders model civility and create a culture of concern for one another?


Here are some ways for leaders to cultivate civility:


Although we may want to keep our professional and personal worlds separate, the truth is they overlap a great deal. Our lives outside of work greatly impact our behaviors and attitudes at work. One way to begin this dialogue is by asking our colleagues how their weekend went. If they share stories about their families or outside activities, make sure to follow-up at a later date about these important people and social groups in their lives. 

When leaders show people they are interested in their world beyond work, a more trusting relationship begins to blossom.


Our choice of words and non-verbal cues such as tone, hand gestures, body language or volume represent our communication style. People around us can sense if we are angry or frustrated or joyful. Being aware of how we come across to others is so important if we want to foster meaningful relationships. 

  • Be clear        
  • Be positive
  • Be caring
  • Be open
  • Be attentive

When leaders take care in using respectful language and body language, they open up the lines of communication.


Help the individuals you connect with in your work world and personal life achieve their dreams. Be interested in whatever path they are choosing to follow and make it clear you support them and believe in their abilities to achieve that goal. Network with them to meet people in their field of interest. Give them a “shout-out” when they reach a goal or milestone. Share their accomplishments with your communities and empower them to continue their journey, even if things get difficult or challenging. Be that cheerleader and remind them of the confidence you have in their ability to succeed. 

When leaders reveal their belief in others, they cultivate high performance and innovation.

Are you a leader who models civility?

 How do you show others they matter and are valued?


(photo credit)

7 thoughts on “What Happens When Leaders Model Civility?

  1. Great post, Terri. I’ve found that people love to be asked questions about “their life outside work.” It doesn’t need to be nosy or probing…just a gentle reference to the kids, spouse, parents, vacation, etc.

    First, it shows that you care about their well being.

    Second, it shows you care enough to remember about the kids or vacation or….

    In other words, you treat them as the real person they are.

    Great reminder!

  2. I agree LaRae that people love to be asked questions about what is going on in their lives. When we reach out to ask, it shows that we care and are genuinely interested in their total worlds.

    All it takes is a little time and a little care and a little curiosity to make a more meaningful connection.

    Thanks for your additions, LaRae!

  3. Loved your post Terri. Thank you for bringing out a human aspect which is so important in being a leader. As you rightly point out it is important to keep that disctinction between professional and personal life yet important that a connection is made to the human side in the way we connect, relate and speak

    Thank you for a great post.

  4. Thanks Lalita for bringing up the need for humanizing our professional worlds.

    When we connect with others by learning more about their personal lives, we cultivate deeper relationships which in turn leads to a more transparent and trusting workplace.

    I appreciate your additions!

  5. Terri, So so important. Sometimes people forget this when they’re moving too fast or stressed. Leaders need to know every interaction matters a lot. People do take it personally. It’s always important to take the time to say hello, please, and thank you. Every time. Seems so simple… and yet…

  6. It is so simple to just say hello or ask someone what they are up to, Karin, and yet overlooked or ignored.

    I am on campaign to promote kindness and generosity in the workplace. It goes a long way to cultivating a caring organization.

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