The Importance of Tone in Leadership

Undoubtedly, being a leader gives you prestige, and that prestige puts you up in the social hierarchy. However, just as a common saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Practicing good leadership is not only about exerting power. It is about bringing out the best in everyone in your team for better organizational performance. It is about leading your team to a direction aligned with the vision of the organization. Hence, leadership entails a lot of expectations.

One sign of effective leadership is that when things go right, you will want to deflect the praise to your team members, but when things go wrong, you take accountability for the mistakes. In many cases, you will also find yourself in situations where you have to perform well even when you are not at your best. These expectations can put you under constant pressure. Some people in your company may recognize this, but others won’t. Despite this, no matter what the situation is, you can become a great model of leadership when you have a great attitude as a leader. And in having a great attitude, the tone comes out as one of its most important aspects.

Here’s how you can keep a good tone with your team members.

Lighting a Fire

Leaders who adopt the ‘rule-through-fear’ paradigm are normally forceful and aggressive. While this can help meet expected results, this can frequently backfire. One expectation from a leader is to get his or her employees energized and motived to work hard and enthusiastically. Ruling through fear does otherwise. Employees may work hard to achieve the team’s goals; however, this method normally saps their energy which could eventually result in lower work engagement.

An effective leader uses inspiration and positivity to harness enthusiasm in employees. Here are some tips to boost enthusiasm in your employees:

  • Share inspiring quotes, speeches, or ideas. Giving nice words to your team always makes a difference. Sharing something inspiring can spread positive vibes among your people, and this could give them energy to do their work. Motivation is about encouragement. Remember that inspiration can foster enthusiasm among your employees.
  • Use upbeat to get people going. There have been several researches conducted about the efficacy of music in boosting work performance, and most show positive results. Depending on the culture of your company, consider using music to motivate your people. You may opt for upbeat music that will not distract your employees or soft music that will not cause your people to slack. Find music that could instill enthusiasm and help boost productivity,
  • Celebrate group and individual successes. Celebrations are always a good source of positive energy. When your team achieves something – small or great – consider celebrating it. This will help foster a positive and forward-looking morale.

Calming a Storm

One challenge of being leader is resolving conflicts. While many people see conflicts as negative, it can be a sign that your employees are engaged enough to get angry or tense. However, when the rage goes out of control, it takes a calm leader to be the eye of the storm and divert the negative energy in positive ways or calm it so employees can function productively.

Here are some tips to do it:

  • Always address conflicts calmly. You have to allow the people involved in the conflict to take a time out from their own anger. For example, you can send one person involved in the conflict on a break while you talk with the other. When one is finished, listen to the other side. This allows them to bring out the emotional discomfort that they feel. Hence, when you talk to both of them, emotions and arguments are lessened. Make sure that you listen more than you talk. Avoid calling out employees in front of others. Doing otherwise, will instill more negative feelings to your people and this will stagger the situation more. Try to resolve the conflict in a place of empathy and understanding.
  • When you talk with your employees about the conflict, make sure that you address the issues in terms of specific behavior and not in terms of your employee’s character traits. Discuss how the behavior affects the rest of your team, but never use an accusatory tone. Do it in a polite and tactful manner.
  • Let your employees give you their understanding of what caused the conflict rather than you identifying the root. This will enable all of you to find the best resolution to the problem. Allow them to suggest solutions, and if necessary, act as a mediator between them. Make sure that everyone can address the situation in a calm manner. Allow the people involved to agree on an appropriate action to restore the peace in your workplace.
  • Most importantly, communicate from a place of mutual respect for all parties involved. Normally, after any conflict, one party may feel embarrassment or resentment towards the other party involved. Help restore mutual respect by treating all parties with the same degree of mutual respect regardless of any perception of their level of fault in the conflict.

Leadership indeed gives you control over situations, and your employees look up to that authority. In order to maintain the respect of your employees to you, it is important to set and maintain the right tone. Nothing is more admirable than a leader who could deal with difficult situations calmly. It is important to always maintain a positive energy in your workplace. This will greatly help in motivating your employees, which could lead to better organizational efficiency and productivity.



Collier, C. (2015). The Science and Art of Being a Likable Boss. Atlanta, Georgia: Personality Matters, Inc.



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Dr. Cherry

Cherry A. Collier, Ph.D. is an Organizational Psychologist, Strategist, Executive Coach, and Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging Consultant for Personality Matters, Inc. Her science-based approach and brain-based techniques, propel people, teams, and organizations to build bridges and work from the inside out to achieve their goals. Dr. Cherry specializes in emotional intelligence, neuroscience, leadership development, and DEI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She received her Doctorate and Master of Science in Applied Social/Organizational Psychology from the University of Georgia and Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Spelman College. She is the author of more than twenty-five Human Behavior related books for leaders, executives, and coaches. Dr. Cherry is often called the DEI Whisperer because she has a unique ability to fiercely “hold the space” and be totally present which creates a psychologically safe environment that allows others all the space they need to fully express themselves. She listens to others with head, heart and hands approach so that they are heard, seen and understood.