There is ONE habit you must be willing to GIVE UP in order to become a much better leader. As a business owner or professional, you have undoubtedly read two or more books on leadership, right? Some of you have read at least part of a dozen books on how to be a more “people-centered” leader, or more hands-on, or of highest character, or a “servant leader” or even, as two Navy SEALS say, an “extreme” leader. I know that some of these books are downright inspiring and influential. But only recently did I read a book which is not in the business or leadership category at all, yet it compelled me to make one dramatic change in my life that impacts every aspect, especially leadership roles.  

What could make such a broad and deep impact? Yes, that question was first uttered when the Grand Canyon was discovered, but here, we find a simple, brilliant answer.

“Man, do I hate complainers!” -T.B., comedic entrepreneur

Think about anyone you’ve been around who is known for being a great leader, someone you respect and would like to emulate their leadership capabilities. You could list several things that brought that person to mind: they have a vision and work towards it; they get others excited about goals through their own enthusiasm;  they show others they care; they roll up their sleeves and work hard every time it’s needed.  Plenty more admirable qualities are exhibited in good leaders. The ONE thing the best leaders do NOT do is…complain

I discussed this with my client, David Kauffman (author, small business coach, and speaker). He agreed, noting that when he was growing up on a large Amish farm, he could tell, even as a child, who all the leaders were in the community just by how they conversed.  A farmer who constantly complained about “lazy field hands”—not  a leader. A farm hand who complained about mucking out a stall—not a leader. Two men who spent more time griping together about the lack of rain than devising a solution—not leaders.  We agreed that great leaders do not waste ANY time railing against a problem. Rather, they get to work creating solutions or work-arounds.   Complaining is in some ways worse than just ignoring something as it tends to sour the mood of everyone within earshot.

How does a great leader sound? It’s not about having a commanding tone, boisterous flare, or steely composure.  The tone ranges from matter-of-fact to ultra-enthusiastic. If a less-than-desirable fact is stated, it doesn’t drip with hidden complaints. The energy in the statement is neutral—there is no undertone of “this isn’t fair!” or “why me?” Can you see how the habit of complaining or griping as if one is a victim all the time would preclude someone from ever being called a great leader?

So, adopting the ONE habit (easier said, than done, admittedly) of never complaining will quickly improve your leadership quality and give you better outcomes with those you lead. 

This is nothing new, yet rarely noticed. 

Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” -Philippians 2:14 (NIV)

This does not mean neglecting to point out a deficiency, state a fact, or tell the truth about a problem or mistake. It does not mean that anyone should tolerate inappropriate behavior or shoddy workmanship. Listen to yourself and others’ intent behind a comment (read between the lines) and you’ll know if it is constructive or just griping/blaming/whining.

Direct your attention more and more to the outcomes you DO want, and you will achieve more and more of those outcomes. Your positive energy will be contagious and you’ll enjoy less complaining from employees. You can speak to everyone about this empowering habit—without complaining about the complainers, of course! Your entire company will benefit. 

Recommended reading: A Complaint-Free World by Will Bowen

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