Great Leaders Develop a Leadership Vocabulary

I’ll never forget in my first church when a very Christlike deacon pulled me aside and offer me some advice in leading a church. I had been a leader in the business world a long time, but this was new for me. He helped me in ways which are being realized even today in how I lead in the church.

The best leaders I know are always learning.

Recently, I sat in on a leadership meeting for another organization. I didn’t feel I had the relationship to do so, but I left sincerely hoping someone would speak into this leader’s life – and he would be willing to learn.

The problem?

This leader had a terrible leadership vocabulary.

Part of maturing as a leader is developing a language which will help the organization and it’s team members achieve greatest success.

Here are some examples of what great leaders learn to say:

“Yes” (to other people’s ideas) more than “No”

“Why not?” more than “I don’t think so”

“Our” more than “My”

“We” more than “I”

“Thank you” more than “You’re welcome”

“Let’s do it” more than “We’ve never done it that way before”

“I believe in you” more than “Prove yourself”

“Here’s something to think about” more than “I command you to”

“What do you think?” more than “Let me think about it”

“How can we?” more than “This is the way”

“I take full responsibility” more than “I’m not responsible”

“They work with me” more than “They work for me”

Great leaders understand the power of their words. The things they say develop the culture of the organization, team member’s perceptions of their individual roles, and the overall health and direction of the organization. Great leaders, therefore, choose their words carefully.

How is your leadership vocabulary? What would you add to my list?

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20 thoughts on “Great Leaders Develop a Leadership Vocabulary

  1. Thanks for this post. There’s much room for me to grow on this subject matter. Recently, I had learnt to use the vocabulary ‘I believe in you’ frequently.

  2. Mine could use a little tweeking! Some you mentioned I have learned the hard way, others I am learning with a technique I like call “close mouth, open ears”!
    Twitter: bryankr

  3. So good. Two I would throw out:
    – A banker friend introduced his support person as his associate instead of his assistant. Impressed me immediately. Similar to “works for me”.
    – “I trust you” when encouraging a team member to feel empowered re decision making on their own.
    So grateful for your insights!
    Twitter: ericsyfrett

  4. This is an excellent post and I thank you for it. I plan to send it to the leaders where I work and perhaps, just perhaps, it will make sense to some of them.

  5. Great stuff as usual, Ron. I believe our words have significance. I would encourage people to not only change their wording but spend some time reflecting on the significance of what they are hearing themselves saying by default. Perhaps it will reveal a heart issue that needs to be addressed.