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Leadership Thought #342 – Don’t Lose Your Personal Censor Button


As you grow as a leader and start to have some success it’s important that you not get too full of yourself and remain somewhat humble. This is especially true as you begin to do more public speaking.  While you certainly can, it’s not advisable to just say whatever is on your mind and believe you have all the answers.  I’m often amazed how many people forget this fact.   Otherwise smart people who have a lot to share with an audience kill their credibility with unwise or unnecessarily controversial statements.  You have to know when to use your personal censor button.

It is certainly okay to have strong beliefs, but be wary of speaking with a sense of certainty unless you have a strong set of facts to back up your case.  It’s also important to note that if your audience has any level of sophistication it will know that you can usually massage statistics to make your case.  As the saying goes, correlation doesn’t prove causation.  In addition, just because you’ve read a book or two on a subject doesn’t mean you are an expert especially if the author has a biased opinion to begin with.  People will ultimately see through thinly veiled arguments.  Being brash will get someone’s attention but it will also engender more increased personal scrutiny.

Two things tend to get speakers in trouble: speaking in sweeping generalizations and making unfounded personal criticisms. 

We all know that life can be complicated at times and situations and context matters.  To act like your experience or knowledge is applicable in all situations is a foolish position to take because more often than not there will always be exceptions or things you don’t know.   It’s okay to have an opinion, but position it as such not as a fact when it is not.    I wish many more leaders would use qualifying statements when making strong points.  There are very few things any of us could or should speak with certainty about.  For example, how can someone who isn’t a scientist debate the scientific merits of something without the proper training or knowledge to do so?  I also have great difficulty respecting someone who is intractable in their opinions and not open to alternative points of view.  A closed mind is not worth listening to…

I’ve never understood going out of your way to be personally critical of someone else in making your points to an audience.  You can certainly criticize positions you don’t agree with but stay focused on the issue not the person.  How can you ascribe motivations or fault the character of someone you don’t even know?  It’s amazing how quickly people rush to judgment on political candidates from either party without ever truly listening to what they have to say or doing even the most basic research on their past track record.  This has become an especially dangerous strategy these days as people take on more strident political and religious beliefs. 

You never win someone over by insulting them or a person they admire.  You also rarely elevate yourself long-term by diminishing others.  You only create further divisiveness and alienate as many people as you convert to your point of view.  This may sell books and media advertising, but it doesn’t promote progress or successfully address any real problems.  It just feeds your ego which probably should go on a diet anyway.  Be ever mindful of your censor button and USE it.

2 Responses

  1. Sometimes, your personal censor button isn’t activated because your common sense-or is fogged up and distracted. If that happens, there’s no telling what the results will be; could be disasterous.

  2. I prefer dialogue to debate. Thank you for this thoughtful post.

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