How to Gossip Like a Leader

Everyone gossips.

Slander and backstabbing are destructive, but there’s a healthy side to gossip.

When you say, “Your reputation precedes you,” you acknowledge the power of gossip. Gossip is one reason businesses grow or fail.

Researchers define gossip as talking about someone who isn’t present. It might be positive, negative, or neutral.

Image of a cluster of colored chess pawns.

Ask your team to say something good about someone who isn't in the room.

The truth about gossip:

Megan Robbins and Alexander Karan observe that…

  1. Extroverts gossip more than introverts.
  2. Women engage in more neutral gossip than men.
  3. Younger people lean toward negative gossip more than older people.
  4. Most gossip tends to be neutral – social information.
  5. Gossip indicates closeness. We gossip with people we like.
  6. We like to gossip because possessing secrets is powerful.
  7. Generous, moral people are most likely to pass along rumors. (It’s often driven by concern for others.)

The value of gossip:

Dunbar’s research suggests that gossip strengthens social bonds. About 5% of gossip deals with freeloaders.

We police freeloaders – those who take benefit without paying – when someone says, “You better watch out for Billy Bob, he’ll take advantage of you.”

Feinberg, Willer, and Schulz suggest that we use gossip to protect people we care about by exposing self-serving people.

Reverse gossip:

My friend, Bob Burg coined the phrase, “Reverse gossip.” You might practice reverse gossip at the beginning of your next meeting.

Ask your team to say something good about team members who aren’t in the room.

Five gossip guidelines:

  1. Never reveal a secret you have promised to keep.
  2. Avoid negative speculations about people’s motives.
  3. Don’t put someone down to elevate your status, ever.
  4. Only pass along reliable information. Stick with your personal experience.
  5. Say good stuff about people who aren’t in the room, a lot!

It’s possible to gossip your way to success.

How might leaders leverage the power of reverse gossip?

It’s a party… and you’re invited!

Mark your calendar for Monday, Jan 24 at 2 PM, ET to join me in the celebration of Mark Miller’s 10th leadership book. I will be hosting this special event, and Mark will be giving away prizes. He’s also giving away several copies of new Smart Leadership in Action Journal! 

Register here: