The Leadership Challenge: Swearing – 1 Tip!

The Point: We’ve all had those heated moments of leadership where using swear words seems like an appropriate choice. Call it lazy, call it a limited vocabulary, call it an attempt to add “humor” or levity to a situation, hey you can even call it getting your “street cred” in certain situations! But are any of these situations appropriate to swear? Should you breach the line of “in-good-taste” and swear in the workplace? In this post we’ll explore the leadership challenge of swearing and provide 1 tip (Yes, just one)… Enjoy!

The Leadership Challenge Swearing 1 Tip

I Swear, Therefore I am!

Apple’s release of the swearing emoji appears to capstone the era of bad taste. What was once a business climate of professionally dressed stakeholders in an organization, slid to business casual and landed in casual/inappropriate attire (as an organizational leader, does it blow your mind that focus is given to dress code instead of driving revenue generation or shareholder value? It should!)

Following this trend in dress code is the vocabulary that organizational leaders and their stakeholders use. I did some consulting work with an organization recently where all (leaders and stakeholders alike) seemed to employ the continuous use of the F-word expletive. As one leader of the organization shared with me when I inquired as to the F-words prevalence “That’s just our culture here… Think of it as fuel for our engine!”

Swearing… It’s What’s for Breakfast (Lunch and Dinner!)

The essence of swearing is derived from civilization’s back alleys, back countries, and backyard sporting events. If the goal of business is to push forward their initiatives/agendas, then why do so many leaders revert to this backward vocabulary choice?

Now I’m no angel! There have been plenty of times (more than I care to admit) where in a round of golf a mishit ball has caused me to exclaim a few choice words (Yes, Mom… Even the aforementioned F-word!) I’ve even worked for a leader right out of graduate school that used the F-word in his vocabulary as nonchalantly as Cousin Frankie requesting to pass the potatoes at Thanksgiving dinner. But does it have to be this way?

1 Tip for The Leadership Challenge of Swearing

I would contend that leaders, and stakeholders alike, would achieve much more success and create harmony in the workplace if swearing was done away with. If as a leader you are looking to advance agenda items, and as stakeholders execute said items, then why would you succumb to swearing?

So here is my 1 tip for the leadership challenge of swearing:

“If you feel as though you must swear… Just don’t do it!”

If the laws of persuasion and influence are alive and well (Thank you Dr. Robert Cialdini!), your vocabulary can help elevate your consistency, likeability, authority, social proof, scarcity, and reciprocity moments. If you’ve spent your entire career building your professionalism, why would you undo it all in a split second with a poor word choice? Know this much… It will take effort and energy NOT to swear.


In this post we’ve explored the leadership challenge of swearing and provided 1 tip. You can learn a lot about a person by the vocabulary they select. Perhaps there is room for swearing in the locker room, but the boardroom?


Sam Palazzolo

PS – I’m proud to say at Tip of the Spear and our platform companies that we’ve had in place for over five years now a “No F-Word” policy. This policy prohibits stakeholders from directing the f-word at each other. It’s written into our code of conduct, and can be used to release one of their duties. I understand that vocabulary is a choice, and am a proud proponent of one’s first amendment “freedom of speech” rights. However, there are plenty of places where one can work if their choice is to employ vocabulary unbecoming.

PPSS – Here’s a nice use of the f-word: “The ‘F-word’ you must use every day in your career” by Danny Rubin