Leadership Lesson: Managers Set the Tone


I recently came across a fantastic article entitled, “Are You Mad at Me?” It shares the story of an editor who was faced with this question by one of his colleagues. The author goes on to explain the lesson learned – that his body language, tone of voice, and other nuances are watched by colleagues and staff members, and often times set the tone for the work environment.


A striking part of the article relates a story shared by Linda Hudson, President of BAE Systems, when she reflected on her realization that she did indeed set the tone within her company:


“I was the first female president of the General Dynamics Corporation, and I went out and bought my new fancy suits to wear to work and so on. And I’m at work on my very first day, and a lady at Nordstrom’s had showed me how to tie a scarf in a very unusual kind of way for my new suit. And I go to work and wear my suit, and I have my first day at work. And then I come back to work the next day, and I run into no fewer than a dozen women in the organization who have on scarves tied exactly like mine.

And that’s when I realized that life was never going to be the way it had been before, that people were watching everything I did. And it wasn’t just going to be about how I dressed. It was about my behavior, the example I set, the tone I set, the way I carried myself, how confident I was — all those kinds of things. It really was now about me and the context of setting the tone for the organization.”


This is a good lesson for managers at any level – you can change the work environment, for the better OR for worse, based on how you conduct yourself at work. Even in times of stress, staff look to their leaders for encouragement and cues on how to react. If you’re cool, calm, and collected, your staff will follow suit. If you present a positive attitude and demeanor during work, it will surely rub off on others.


I enjoyed the message in this article, and hope that it gives you pause as you go about your workday.



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