R-rated CEOs: The Secret to Potty Mouth

Have you done it? Maybe you let one slip in a team meeting, or mutter one over the phone with a long time partner or loyal distributor, maybe coloured up your blog with a cuss or two.... but when it comes to an executive leader or CEO, is 'cussing' ever appropriate? and if so - when and how often? 

I have been in a boardroom where the lead executive has let one slip and to be honest - I kinda

liked it... Not the use of profanity itself, but the immediate grounding and realism that brought this person down from his corporate glass box and into the trenches, as just another frustrated, goal-driven individual who wants to get it right!

But I strongly believe there is a time and a place for potty mouth where business leaders and executives are concerned. But before divulging my secret formula for the perfect potty mouth, let's look at the main drivers behind this age old tradition: 

This "fun" topic was inspired by a blog post referencing a viral video of John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, and his R-rated rant at a recent company event. Aside from being authentic, which I think is what he wanted to achieve, some critics feel he was treading into some inappropriate territory. I will let you judge for yourself.

He's not the first, there have been lots of senior execs famed for their wayward tongues; Chairman of Scotts Miracle-Gro, James Hagedorn; CEO Ryanair Holdings Plc, Michael O’Leary; and Chairman/CEO of Emerson Electric Co., David Farr - to name a few.

For our PR  purposes today, I am referencing those leaders who  may be addressing their employees or stakeholders, usually in a large or public forum, or in front of media of any type - not in the back room behind closed doors - Lord knows what goes on in there!

Cussing as a motivator: As a leader of a company, no matter what size - your goal is often to rally, motivate, inspire and evoke change. Understandably, people can get very passionate when it comes to their vision, beliefs and their goals. In these cases, I feel it could be valid and perhaps even effective to get 'colourful' on the podium as a point of emphasis or key messages you wish to drive home. *This is of course, taking into the culture, demographics and moral character of the crowd in question* (kinda goes without saying)

Read the Room: Tuning in to your audience and sensing when the chuckles turn from sincere to uncomfortable, more shifting bums in seats - these are key indicators that you've gone from clever to crude.  You do not want to evoke a drill sergeant from a 1980's war movie or begin your best Louis C.K. impression.

But when to pull back the needle and still get applause?...

My secret to delivering a good *!@# bomb: 

If you must cuss! -

  1. Immediately deliver a key message
  2. Slow down your pace
  3. Look people in the eye

Regains their focus, shows sincerity, leaves them with confidence. Ta Da!

This method requires a little practice but will ensure that you can use your powers for good instead of off-putting. Cussing can be used as a way to evoke authenticity, and then pull people right back to the main point.

Pretty simple right? Good, now get the *!#@ back to work!