Anyone from dog trainers and parents, to CEOs and heads of states know this basic of leadership: Don't make rules you're not prepared to rigorously enforce.
Occasionally letting it slide is a great way to confuse the troops (when does the rule apply?), undermine your authority (what other rules can we ignore?) and raise questions about your competency (why have a rule that's not necessary?).
Lax enforcement raises a host of quests, not the least of which is: Do we even need the rule at all?
Perhaps York City Mayor Kim Bracey is mulling that as she digests the recent food-giveaway permit fee fiasco.
Bobby Brunner, founder of the very active nonprofit Neighbors Helping Neighbors, has hosted events all over the area at which he donates everything from clothing, food, toys, cleaning supplies, and furniture to those in need.
He's been doing it since 2009, when a fire displaced 61 families from their homes on Chestnut Street, and he received the mayor's 2011 York Humanitarian Award for his efforts.
For past events, Brunner said, Bracey has waived a $35 fee for a permit to give away food.
But for Saturday's Summer Fest, held in collaboration with York First Assembly of God, he was told he'd have to pay the fee to distribute a truck-load of donated food to the area's needy.
"I think it's a crock," Brunner said.
Our first thought was perhaps the administration decided to consistently enforce the rule, but it seems that's not the case.
A few weeks after Brunner paid his fee, the city apparently waived permit and fee requirements for Halloween parade participants who will toss candy to spectators at the Oct. 26 event.
That's a change from last year, when marchers who wanted to throw candy had to first comply with a city ordinance governing food distribution at special events by filling out a form and giving York City $35.
This year the York Revolution, the parade's sponsor, paid a single $35 fee that will cover all parade participants. It was a compromise worked out with Bracey, according to Adam Nugent, special events coordinator for the Revolution.
No, $35 is not a lot of money — but, as Brunner said, it's "the whole principle" of the thing.
Maybe there's a good reason people helping neighbors put food on the table have to pay the fee, while those tossing sugar to tots do not.
If there is, we haven't heard it.
Bracey's assistant referred questions to the mayor, and the mayor didn't return repeated calls for comment from our reporter.
Short of a better explanation, we can only conclude this is an ill-conceived rule that should probably be eliminated altogether.