The End of Gossip


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Leadership is relational. Plans and programs shrivel compared to the relationships you create, nurture, or tolerate. Organizations are only as strong as the relationships that hold them together.

Gossip weakens and destroys relationships.

Gossip is about power.

Those without power, gossip to get power.

Manipulation, twisting truths, and speculation are symptoms of feeling powerless.

Leaders inspire gossip when they:

  1. Tolerate it.
  2. Gossip.
  3. Withhold information.
  4. Avoid difficult conversations.
  5. Avoid taboo topics. Fearful leaders build fearful organizations filled with speculative gossip.
  6. Speculate about motivations rather than dealing with behaviors.

Secrets invite gossip; information kills it.

Trust, transparency, and candor end gossip.

Ask, “What can’t we share?”

Fear of transparency indicates inequities, favoritism, and protectionism within organizations. The good ole boy’s club rules.

Default toward transparency:

Assume everything is public until someone says it isn’t.

After conversations, ask, “What was said that can’t be repeated?” Build cultures where openness is the rule not the exception. Constituents and partners have the right to expect transparency.

Principles of communication:

The guideline for all conversation is usefulness. If it doesn’t serve a useful purpose, don’t say it. Before speaking, simply ask, “Is it useful?” Does it:

  1. Create or strengthen connection.
  2. Clarify.
  3. Express values.
  4. Align with mission and vision.
  5. Demonstrate respect.

Don’t create information overload by sharing everything, prioritize according to usefulness.

The goal for all conversations is building-up. Even when tearing down, building-up must be the ultimate goal. Every word you say must be for the good of your organization and everyone in it.

The direction of all conversations is the future, even when addressing the past. What future are your words creating?

What is uncomfortable about transparency and candor?

What are the limits of transparency and candor?