Orrin Woodward on LIFE & Leadership

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    Former Guinness World Record Holder for largest book signing ever, Orrin Woodward is a NY Times bestselling author of And Justice For All along with RESOLVED & coauthor of LeaderShift and Launching a Leadership Revolution. His books have sold over one million copies in the financial, leadership and liberty fields. RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions For LIFE made the Top 100 All-Time Best Leadership Books and the 13 Resolutions are the framework for the top selling Mental Fitness Challenge personal development program.

    Orrin made the Top 20 Inc. Magazine Leadership list & has co-founded two multi-million dollar leadership companies. Currently, he serves as the Chairman of the Board of the LIFE. He has a B.S. degree from GMI-EMI (now Kettering University) in manufacturing systems engineering. He holds four U.S. patents, and won an exclusive National Technical Benchmarking Award.

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Leadership Soft-Skill: The Art of Tact

Posted by Orrin Woodward on March 4, 2013

Leadership Tact

Leadership Tact

The sixth soft-skill of leadership from the Center for Creative Leadership’s list is political savvy – the ability to influence people to obtain goals. The heart of being politically savvy, according to CCL, is networking, reading situations, and thinking before speaking. Political savvy is the tact to say the truth that needs to be said, but in a way that doesn’t damage the relationship more than the truth enhances the cause. Unfortunately, this may be one of the most violated of soft-skills and why many potential leaders are without influence even though they have great ideas for improvement. Tact, therefore, is an essential quality to develop in working with others.

I define tact as the ability to influence others through using proper words and actions without offending the other party. Truth in love is the principle, but it is easier said than done. For instance, how many meetings have the readers attended where truth needed to be told in order to move the meeting forward? However, instead of progressing in a tactful way towards this objective, someone, in contrast, went off on the other party, impaling him or her on the “sword of truth.” Predictably, the other party, instead of hearing the merits of the suggestion, responded to the attack personally and mounted an attack of his own on his antagonist. Both sides defend themselves and the meeting accomplishes nothing, but further damaged relationships. In consequence, the truth exposed is buried under the escalating emotions and the only real, but wrong, lesson learned is to not share truth at all. The team, in other words, has chosen peace rather than progress.

Thankfully, there is a better path. Indeed, a person who masters truth with tact is worth his weight in gold. Perhaps this leads the reader to the same series of questions I asked on my leadership journey. But, how is this essential leadership skill learned? Mainly, by practicing good judgement. But, how does one get good judgement? Typically, by experience. But, how does one get the experience? Usually, through poor judgement. Needless to say, I have violated the tact principle so many times, that if I had a dollar for every failure, I would match government’s inflation. 🙂 Well, not actually, but the reader gets the point. 🙂 Incidentally, RESOLVED 13 Resolutions for LIFE shares how to utilize the PDCA process to grow by personal experience.

In any event, there is no substitute for courage and experience in developing tact. The courage to engage in crucial conversations and the PDCA process to learn from the experience. Normally, when people have to deal with truth, they are uncomfortable and let their emotions get the best of them. Instead of sharing the truth in love, this comes off as a personal attack on the other party. Remember the earlier article on EQ and maintaining one’s equilibrium in pressure packed situations? This is when EQ and tact must be married together, for the truth isn’t more important than the relationship. Simply stated, if the leader damages the relationship, the he has lost the ability to influence and it doesn’t matter how much truth he has to share.

Therefore, before I enter into any situation where tact is required, I remind myself to never share more truth than the person has the ability to handle. Each person, in a word, has a capacity for truth like a cup has a capacity for liquid. Thus, when a person pours more truth than a person can handle, it’s like pouring too much coffee into a cup. In effect, the attempted helpful action – sharing truth – has become offensive because “truth coffee” has spilled all over the person and burned the other person.

The reason the LIFE Business provides access to our recommended top five books is to help a person learn tact. Even so, tact, in truth, is only learned by applying the principles in real life situations until it is finally mastered. Sadly, most people, through fear of failure, avoid sharing truth at all, thus eliminating their ability to lead because they have eliminated their ability to influence. A person does not need to be a leadership guru to develop tact. In fact, every person needs tact in order to influence. Nonetheless, people will live their entire lives violating the principles of tact, burning their most valuable relationships with too much “truth coffee.” Indeed, knowing the truth, although important, isn’t sufficient. Above all, a leader must learn to share truth with tact, building relationships and influence with others on his journey to leadership excellence.


Orrin Woodward

45 Responses to “Leadership Soft-Skill: The Art of Tact”

  1. Scott Staley said

    I love the example of ‘truth coffee’ over flowing the cup and burning the recipient. What a great way to explain capacities, and consequences.

    Great article, thanks for sharing.

  2. Wendi Witkowski said

    Great Post Orrin! I love the journey of personnal growth and all the resources the Life business offers.

  3. CC Achilefu said

    Thanks Orrin!

  4. Michele Lewis said

    Thanks for the article Orrin.

  5. I am on my failure journey in this right now. I do not fear it though. I have faith in you and the system that you and the leaders have provided. I also have Kristine Militello and Peggi Kern to learn from. Orrin, they are masters of tact! Thank you and all the leaders for clearing the fog and making a path that is so easy for us to follow!

  6. Peggi Kern said

    This soft skill is great to read about, but as you’ve said, it takes courage to apply. It’s also better and more effective to apply if you’ve seen “real life” examples of this skill to model. The LIFE community offers examples to model in so many of it’s leaders. The leaders my husband and I are blessed to work directly with are Marc and Kristine Militello. We’ve worked with them and mentored with them for many years and have seen them truly master this soft skill, offering truth in love. They are an amazing couple for us to learn from and to model. I am blessed to have this LIFE community to lead me through the leadership process and am confident I will learn the skill of tact, through the same PDCA process that all the LIFE leaders have implemented in their families and businesses.

  7. Steve Leurquin said

    So much to say on this subject, but to keep the principle lesson of the article I will say nothing at all.:).

  8. Josh Dames said

    Great stuff Orrin, this topic reminds me of a situation I was in yesterday.. While reading I realized what was going on in the conversation and I will Pdca to keep getting better!! Thx Orrin and god bless

  9. Tim Johnson said

    Thanks for another great post Orrin! I really enjoy the Soft-Skill articles you have been posting. I’ve learned so much from reading the Top 5 books, reading blogs from Team leaders, and associating with people who truly want to help others. This has been a wonderful journey that keeps getting better!

  10. Terry said

    Wonderful article on tact.

    I think going hand in hand with this, would be remembering our leadership skills when we are on the receiving end of this truth in love. It can sometimes be very easy to get defensive and justify out position. Imagine if every crucial conversation had each person employing tact (truth in love) when they are speaking and utilizing Covey’s 5th habit of seeking first to understand when they are listening.

  11. Kim Myer said

    Great topic! And I could add many dollars to the bucket from my own experiences!! Thankfully, through the LIFE materials over the past year, I’m not afraid to keep trying and have grown in this area. Thank you, Orrin and all the PC for continuing to bring relevant information in a way that’s relatable.

  12. Ted Hewing, Jr. said


  13. Phil Mette said

    Before being apart of the LIFE community, it was difficult to self-identify this. LIFE is a great score card to know how your doing.
    Thanks Orrin

    • Dean said

      Yes and I am proud of you Phil for the effort you are making to improve in this area. I believe that certain personalities struggle more in having tact but growth is still possible if we want it bad enough. Keep rocking on!!!

  14. Kirk Birtles said

    Orrin… Oh what a troubled past Ive lived…full of train wrecks, derailed by a massive lack of tact! I couldn’t agree more, (hunger to grow) + (experience) + (top 5 books) = improved ability to share truth with love & EQ = tact! Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and perspective!!

    God bless,


  15. Andrew Rockwell said

    So true Orrin! These types of conversations definitely take courage!

  16. Rob Robson said

    Nothing like reading Orrin Woodwards blog to get a little “truth coffee” to wake you up in the morning!

  17. Barb Bartel said

    Thank you, Orrin. A needed reminder of where I’ve fallen many times! Thank God and our leaders for teaching us so much! Everything just keeps getting better!

  18. Orrin,
    Is there a way to know when the cup is full? Do people give signs?

    • Orrin Woodward said

      Robby, You bet they do! That’s the art side of the business and you must pay attention behind the words to their posture, body-language etc and turn from truth to encouragement as soon as capacity is reached. thanks, Orrin

  19. Debbie Miller said

    “Never share more truth than the person has the ability to handle”. Great words to live by–thanks.

  20. Great stuff! Orrin Woodward, Chris Brady, George Guzzardo, Claude Hamilton, Bill Lewis, Dan Hawkins, Wayne MacNamara, and Tim Marks have such great blogs! I love the information being taught in the LIFE business. Thank you!

  21. Matt Foote said

    Excellent article Orrin. This is one skill that I am working to apply specifically to my marriage. It has been very helpful for me to begin to understand these principles so that when I feel attacked, I know that it was not intended as an attack, and I can begin to stop the downward spiral.

  22. Lisa Elliott said

    Great post.

  23. So True! Thanks Orrin 🙂

  24. Great word picture with the “truth coffee” – that will really help me not to burn someone WHEN the time comes. 😀

  25. Steve Duba said

    Thanks Orrin,this is a big one for me.It will probably take the 10,000 hours for me to master this one.In the end it will be worth
    it.Thanks again..God Bless

  26. Chad Waters said

    Great Post Orrin!

    I love this series and what all the Life materials have done for us as a family and for our leadership abilities! Many a miles to go, however were choosing to hike those miles with Life!

  27. Alison Ruhlman said

    I love the analogy of the hot “truth coffee” — will be easier to remember when dealing with people — also the reference to the top 5 books — what DON’T those 5 books solve!!! I am on the journey to read through those books twice this year!!!

  28. Kevin Hamm said

    Just finished How to Win Friends and Influence People again, lots of application for me there on this subject. May God’s grace abound. 🙂

  29. Phillip Lewis said

    Good Word Orrin!!
    Thanks for this revelation.

  30. Keith Sieracki said

    “never share more truth than the person has the ability to handle” Gosh, I have broken this so many times…until now. thanks Orrin! this topic covers every aspect of human interaction. Great stuff.

  31. Omar chetta said

    Thanx Orrin !

  32. Antonio Rosselli said

    It just happen … I was under the impression that i knew what i was doing … And instead i created a situation where a coworker/friend decided to leave … My apologies did not work in changing the person mind … I thought i knew the truth but i did not … I Thought i was telling the truth but i did not … I thought that i knew how to lead but i did not …

  33. Eric Schilling said

    Great teaching on the art side of leadership!

  34. Kaitlyn Fix said

    Great post Orrin. There have been plenty of times where I have put truth in front of relationships, not realizing what I was saying hurt the relationship. Thanks to the Team and LIfe for helping me figure out how to have tact, and how much truth to share. I appreciate all you do for the Team!

    Kaitlyn Fix

  35. Adam Gonzales said

    Awsome insight!

  36. Danny said

    Great article Orrin! I have really enjoyed this series. I have been on the side of being dealt with no tact and that helped me see how it was wrong, but at the same time tactless people left me not thinking I wasn’t meant to lead. These articles, combined with your book Resolved, and the entire training system have lifted me from that. Extremely grateful!

  37. Kim Decker said

    The truth is what we should have been taught all our lives but where did it all go wrong…Now we know the answers and thanks to LIFE we are bette people for that.

  38. Evan G said

    I love the example of truth coffee. Its very true.
    thanks for the article Orrin.

  39. Anthony Nieto said

    Great post!! It’s amazing how many people take your blog for granted. You give us a mentor session right in our living room.

  40. Becca said

    I just read this quote “Leadership isn’t about making decisions on your own, but owning decisions once they are made.” Andy Stanley

  41. Alaysha said

    Just thinking of how many relationships I could have saved by knowing tact and everything I’ve learned from the life business and the top 5 books is pretty sobering indeed!

  42. Yancy Mejia said

    I read the article and is great I have learned a lot about using tact when dealing with relashionships it has come very useful.I really apreciate reminding us of this so we can keep on learning in this area.

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