Gibbs’s Rules

by | Apr 12, 2021 | Blog, Culture, Employees, Ethics, Leadership, Uncategorized

One of my favorite TV programs is NCIS. The main character of the show is a retired Marine gunny by the name of Leroy Jethro Gibbs. “Gibbs,” as he likes to be called, is a man of conviction. In this highly rated drama of murder, detection, and high-tech forensics, Special Agent Gibbs leads a team of investigators and he constantly reminds the team of his “Rules.”


These rules are how Gibbs manages his life and team. He says it is “a code to live by.”

To give you a taste, I only mention four of his 75 Rules.

Rule #3: “Don’t believe what you’re told. Double check.”

Rule #13: “Never, ever involve a lawyer.”

Rule #28: When you need help, ask.

Rule #51: Sometimes, you’re wrong.

This might seem like a running joke to people who do not understand leadership and conviction, but these rules are how the show’s writers communicate the Gibbs character’s intense conviction.

Leadership Principle

  • A leader must have conviction.

But what is conviction?

I will answer this way: What hill are you willing to die on? If you answer “none,” then you lack conviction.


Conviction Defined

Conviction is… based on the word convinced, the state of being convinced.


… is a deep urging that something is right, and must be done, an unshakable belief or opinion in something that is held firmly without the need for proof or evidence.


… is a passion for those things you believe in.


… gives you guidance and serves to define what is good or to identify what is bad.


For instance, Gibbs has had many bad dealings with attorneys over his professional career, so he has three separate rules about dealing with them. If you are a lawyer, you may not like Gibb’s conviction regarding your profession. But these rules provide Gibbs – the leader – specific guidance about how to deal with the attorneys he must interface with.


Conviction Works Both Ways

Since it is somebody’s opinion or judgment on something or way of interpreting or thinking about something, the person with conviction can have beliefs that are extreme, hurtful, or destructive. This usually occurs when the person’s zeal surpasses their common sense and understanding of right and wrong.


As we witnessed in Washington DC recently, some power-hungry people somehow convince themselves that they are right and sought to harm others when they carried out their ruinous beliefs. Some influencers can even inspire others, through the power of conviction, to take leave of their senses and commit crimes or even suicide.


Rational Conviction

But far more leaders build businesses, create charities & foundations, donate blood, mentor young people, and care for employees in need because it is ‘the right thing to do.’ It is something they believe must be done! This good leader is convinced that an idea or course of action must be pursued. This conviction in a leader drives their decisions, promotes action, allows for the acceptance of risk, serves to overcome doubt, and draws others into the endeavor.

A person with conviction will and has walked through walls or crawled over broken glass. [These are descriptive metaphors for the unstoppable person, so don’t worry; no one expects you to damage walls or your knees!]

A High Road® Leader™ with conviction has the confidence that somebody or something is good or will be effective. This leader uses his/her conviction often as a standard for high caliber morals or ethics especially when used for decision-making.


Sources of Conviction

Our convictions are derived from our values and what we hold as dear. Our conviction comes through your experiences and occasionally the lack of them. Conviction can be sparked when we see someone else take a stand, like Malala Yousufzai. She stood for girls’ rights for educational opportunities and still does, even after the Taliban tried to assassinate her.

Our conviction develops over time, through both positive and negative experiences, through seeing the successes and failings of others. Eventually, it seeps into our soul and we become persuaded that “I must do this or “I need to hold my ground on that.”


What Hill are You Willing to Die On? – This is How You Find Out

Will you do something that will help you become a better and caring leader?

First, take time and write out “My Core Values,” listing all that come to mind.

Example – one of mine is ‘strong healthy relationships’.

Next, make another list titled: “What I Hold my Ground On.” Keep this list to 10 (for those superchargers, no more than 15).

Example – on my list I wrote ‘my family’s safety and security’.


Then, compare this list with you values. I you do not see a correlation, cross the ones that do not connect from List 2.

Finally, go through List 2 (edited) and place a checkmark by each one that you can say, “I would gladly put my reputation or even my life for this.”

Example – I have and will continue to place myself in harm’s way if one of my family members was in jeopardy.

The items (values) that are checked are the makings of your convictions. This is your “List of Rules.”

Now that you know what you are convinced of, use them wisely as you lead your team and organization!

Ron Rael Leadership Provocateur, is a keynote speaker, consultant, and author.

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