BLOG: Leadership Preparation: Is Etiquette Expertise Essential for Today’s Leader?

Leadership Preparation: Is Etiquette Expertise Essential for Today’s Leader?


“Your manners are always under examination, and by committees, little suspected, awarding or denying you very high prizes when you least think it”.  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

When practiced consistently, business etiquette and protocol knowledge will increase your presence and influence, create collaborative cultures and sustain relationships.

Etiquette principles and practices, at their core, are centered in graciousness and treating others with kindness and dignity rather than rigid rules and off-putting behaviors (pinkies down please). This knowledge covers topics from dining to guidelines for managing difficult conversations with grace and skill.

Knowing the mindset, skills and behaviors, the why, the how and the when, leads to confidence for yourself, puts others at ease and makes life smoother. When I traveled internationally as a human resources executive representing a Fortune 100 company, knowledge of manners, etiquette and protocol helped me bridge many cultural gaps.

In a survey we conducted, the following are the key areas of knowledge for gracious and powerful leaders:

  • Properly introduce yourself and others
  • Write and send handwritten notes to show your appreciation
  • Be on time consistently, virtually and in person
  • Be well groomed
  • Dress for the occasion
  • Perfect your table manners and dining skills
  • Google the top words that trigger conflict and remove them from your vocabulary.
  • Say please, thank you and you are welcome (rather than “no problem”)
  • If you shake hands, have a proper handshake

When I mentioned to a colleague that I was writing this, the response was “so old school”.  What do you think, old school, relevant for today, not necessary to repeat, smacks of classism?  We would enjoy hearing your perspective.