Leaders Never Shame

Good leaders never use shame or public demeaning as a leadership tool.

Discomfort, yes. New situations, a bit of a comfort zone stretch, some natural consequences to actions, sure.

But shame – to make someone feel guilty as a motivator to change – will only hurt relationships, make observers wary, and send the message that such tactics are okay for everyone to use.


“Nice of you to join us, Sam – running late as usual, I see. Alarm ‘not go off’ again?”

“Really? REALLY? Hey everyone, you’ll never guess what? Jacque ‘forgot’ to turn in his TPS report again. What is this, the fourth week in a row?”

“What are you, stupid?”

Bad leaders justify public shaming by saying, “Well, if they feel this pain, they won’t do it anymore.” Maybe. But they’ll disengage and become even harder to motivate. And the credibility of those leaders takes a dive.

Guilt is okay – that’s self-inflicted as a result of values not matching behaviors. And in the right way, leaders help people see when their behaviors aren’t working.

But they don’t use shame.

Further reading – Here is a great little piece by Brené Brown on guilt versus shame.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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