Leadership Spotlight

Table Manners from Mom and Dad

“You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jelly beans.”

Ronald Reagan

As a child growing up in a middle class family with two brothers and a sister, we always were coming and going in many different directions—except when it was time for dinner. It was an unspoken rule that all family members had to be at the dinner table by 5 p.m. on weekdays. While I recall a few meals that were not particularly appetizing (meatloaf with raisins—sorry Mom), the conversations always were rewarding. Eating dinner together was considered a time to unite and share the day’s happenings and events. It also was a time of instruction on the proper etiquette required at the dinner table. I am reminded today of the many life teachings that my parents instilled at dinnertime in the guise of table manners.


LessonLeadership Translation
Be punctualHonor your commitments by being on time or notifying others when you will be late.
Give thanksIt is simple, free, and powerful to show appreciation. We can inspire others by thanking them for their efforts.
Place your napkin on your lapThe professional courtesies we sometimes ignore or forget leave a lasting impression and can weaken team morale. Manners count!
Ask someone to pass you the foodAsk advice from others and let them feed your creativity.
Use little or no saltToo much of anything is generally unhealthy; maintain a balanced worklife that keeps stress in check.
Try new foodsExpand your palate by seeking new learning opportunities that make you a well-rounded leader.
Listen to what is said at the tableGenerous listening is rare. Take time to be a more active listener.
Share something about your dayShare your skills, talents, and experience with others. This is a great way to build new leaders.
Don’t overeatAvoid taking fill in yourself because of a title or position. It creates indigestion for everyone, including you.
Help clean up the dishesUnderstand that it never hurts to occasionally climb back in the trench and help. Servant leadership speaks volumes.

Christopher C. Lenhard, a member of the Leadership Development Institute at the FBI Academy, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.