Why Great Leaders Avoid Gossip


By Jas Singh

I have this prehistoric image.

100,000 years ago mankind doing pretty well. As the most socially advanced creatures on earth we’d developed extraordinarily fast. Our survival instincts were unsurpassed. We’d even managed to see out the ice age.

A few more thousand years of this advanced social evolution and our species would truly be “running things”.

Somewhere in a jungle, two male homo sapiens were standing over there recent kill. Another great day in the forest, another great day of dedicated teamwork. Usual protocol awaited – go home, cook the dinner, share everything with the rest of the tribe…equally.

Except one day, one of the men was feeling greedy. A little bit selfish. He wanted more than his fair share. So when he got back to camp, and his partner was taking a waterfall, he decided to try something.

He started a rumour. He went to the most talkative person in the tribe and told him how caveman B had stashed some of the meat in the forest. How he was planning to go back the next day for a private feast. How he has forced caveman A (who was weaker) to comply otherwise he’d hurt him.

“Shhh…don’t tell anyone” he asked the chatterbox.

Slowly but surely, the rumour began to spread.

And so poor caveman B, freshly returned with his hair and beard flowing, suddenly found himself tied to the stake. Wondering what the heck was going on.

This is easy, thought caveman A.

The gossip epidemic had begun…

Gossiping is a fundamental human trait. Although few people proudly admit it, we all do it. About our colleagues, about our neighbours – even about the Kardashians. Humans love hearing and talking about other humans – even if it’s totally fabricated.

The only way to not gossip, is to avoid it. Which is something very difficult to do.

Here are some reasons why great leaders avoid gossip.

It’s often inaccurate

The thing about gossip is that it’s usually based on opinions. Another person’s perspective. What they feel at a particular moment in time. Often with no evidence, facts or knowledge.

Since most gossip is usually secretive, (aka behind another persons back), the truth is usually not known. So we fill in the gaps. Make assumptions. Anything to keep the story going and fulfil our addiction to gossiping.

Great leaders never make assumptions based on gossip. They listen to opinions, but base their decisions on facts or accurate knowledge. They realise that making decisions based on gossip and opinions is nothing better than shooting in the dark.

Great leaders only believe it when they see it.

It wastes time

Spreading rumours and gossiping is our international past time. We all know people who can spend hours talking about others – with no structure, relevance or even genuine interest. The brave (and honest?) amongst us would even admit to doing it personally.

The reason for why humans have a tendency to gossip is still relatively unproven but many experts think it is because in the past it may have benefited us bond with each other and build social responsibility towards each other.

However just like most of our useful and rare genetic traits, we just seem to have overdone it. As someone famously once said, it doesn’t matter what you do, or how you do it, your neighbours are going to talk about you ANYWAY.

Leadership calls for efficiency. For productivity. For actions that are useful and empowering to others. Great leaders avoid gossip like broken glass.

They’ve got far more important things to do.

It destroys trust

Although gossip temporarily brings two people together (especially if you are talking about another person who you mutually are interested in – positively or negatively), the ironic thing is that in the long term it actually destroys trust.

A person who will sit with you and happily criticize another person, will criticize you in an earshot. What’s worse, gossip travels fast – spreading from person to person. Often, it can even get back to the person you were talking about in the first place – a sure fire way to ruin a relationship. And destroy your reputation.

Gossipers are easy to spot and once labelled, it’s almost an impossible task to reverse.

Great leaders realise trust is built on fairness and transparency. They never succumb to the tendency to gossip, however tempting.

However they are not ignorant.

Great leaders understand that they only gossip if you repeat it.

Until then, it’s gathering information.


Gossiping is a habit.

And like all habits, the more we do it the harder it becomes to ditch.

Hiring managers can gain much from those who don’t have too much to say about others – who are more focussed on doing than talking.

Got any juicy gossip?

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