Developing Your Talent


Leadership Begins with Decency

By Steve Harrison on July 29, 2013

Successful leaders understand the importance of paying attention to the details. They carve out time for brief, impromptu conversations with colleagues beyond the executive suite, express appreciation for employee efforts, provide a safe and transparent work environment, and understand that only by actively listening to employees will they uncover what motivates their workforce. These small gestures – or decencies – have a profound impact on an organization, fostering a culture of trust and integrity.

In The Manager’s Book of Decencies, I define decencies as catalysts for action: tangible evidence that we matter and that every role is essential to the success of an organization. Studies consistently reaffirm that employees crave recognition over other, more expensive and more elaborate, corporate incentives. Employees want to know that they’re valued by the organization and that their work matters.

Managing with decency is a demonstration of strength and vision. Leaders who consistently model behavior that’s considerate, respectful and ethical aren’t looking for a short-term quick fix. Rather, they’re focused on the long-term benefits of a culture based on decency: higher levels of performance, increased retention rates, sustainable employee engagement and enhanced teamwork – all of which position the organization as an employer of choice in the community.

As I’ve discussed throughout this series of articles, small gestures of kindness and tangible appreciation can build great companies where humility trumps hubris, success is shared, leaders are accessible, and employees have a clear understanding of the organization’s collective mission. Leaders who get results are bold, decisive, strategic, innovative – and decent.


Steve Harrison is a long-time management and corporate culture innovator. He is the author of “The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Can Build Great Companies.” This is the last in an eight-part series from Steve addressing a philosophy of doing business that goes beyond the transfer of goods and services. It calls for a transfer of values known as small decencies. Steve is co-founder and Chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison and former chief ethics and compliance officer of Adecco Group.

Read the full series:

2 Responses to “Leadership Begins with Decency”

  1. Virg Setzer

    Excellent comments – so very powerful – I just wish every CEO and for that matter Senior Leaders would grasp your message and run with it – what a difference it would make for our business world!

    Well Done!

  2. Peter Doris

    The series of excerpts you’ve chosen to publish are fine. It’s not self serving to recommend your clients, your consultants and even your competitors read “The Manager’s Book of Decencies.” Steve ‘s insights could occupy Charlie Rose’s time
    on Blomberg and Terri Gross’s attention on “Fresh Air.” Click on for yourself and consume the whole enchilada.


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