LEADERSHIP: Why rules are wrong when we do what is right.

Rules and processes are a necessary element in the efficient and consistent production of products and services in almost any business. There are however, many instances where good judgment and empathy can be exercised in order to create more humane and improved outcomes.


In this instance, a warehouse associate used his cell phone to check the time in plain view of a floor manager. The manager left the area without incident or response only to return a short while later to inform the employee they were “writing them up” for cell phone use.


The employee violated the “letter of the law” with regard to cell phone use, but there is certainly room for improvement with regard to Leadership, communication, and reasonable judgment on the part of the manager. Below are 4 reasons why strict adherence to the rules might be wrong in order to do what is right.


  1. Leaders always capitalize on opportunities for learning. In this instance the manager passed up a golden opportunity to remind the employee about the existence of the rule and why it was implemented in the first place. Good Leaders always counsel, educate and exhaust all other options before taking disciplinary action.


  1. Leaders exercise empathy. As Leaders, it is incumbent upon us to lead with empathy. Regardless of the situation, we must endeavor to assess the situation from the team’s vantage point in order to produce more meaningful and enduring solutions.

When a team believes their leader understands their situation and truly cares about their well-being they are more loyal and more receptive to direction. Alternatively, a manager that lacks empathy for their team is incapable of great Leadership and may want to reconsider their career choice.


  1. Leaders exercise reasonable judgment. Leaders don’t follow blindly or do things simply “because we’ve always done them.” Great leaders challenge the status quo. They have an acute curiosity that drives them toward constant evolution of themselves and their teams. This differentiates true Leadership from management.

With regard to rule adherence, good Leaders always take the circumstances into account. What is the rule designed to accomplish or prevent? Is this instance a significant deviation from that intent? What subsequent action most readily serves the greater good? How will that action motivate or demotivate the team?

 When the right questions are asked, and the appropriate dialogue has taken place, rarely do leaders arrive at punishment as the next step.


“Strict adherence to rules without exercising reasonable judgment doesn’t make you a leader; it in fact makes you a follower.”



Rules are an essential element in keeping our businesses running smoothly and efficiently. Great Leaders are judicious in their application of these rules. They understand that their success is inextricably intertwined with the success of their team.


“Leadership is not about personal power, but the ability to empower your team.”


When leaders communicate and educate their teams, empower them and give them their due respect, teams thrive and unleash their discretionary effort on the company’s behalf.


Do you agree? Let me know how you do the right thing with your team.

Are you ready to be a Leader?

Receive my FREE Leadership assessment worksheet.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.