Why Leaders' Words Matter.....A Lot

By Ann
February 2, 2017

It is true. Words are free. Underestimating their power is costly.                               

Haven’t we all said something we later regretted? In some cases, we are unaware of the impact of our words for good or ill. Words have power; choose them wisely.

Business leaders, for example, unwittingly stymie creative thinking with “Have you thought about this ______?” How can a simply question shut down the very behavior a leader wants to encourage?

By virtue of your position as the leader, your words carry significant weight. From the boss, “Have you thought about this….” is more a directive than a question. When the boss suggests something that’s permission to act without owning the decision. If the action has a bad outcome, it wasn’t your idea. After all, the boss told you to do it, right?

Command and control is an efficient style of leadership. First, the boss knows best and he has the path to success mapped out. The only thing employees have to do is show up to do what they are told. Thinking, creativity and innovation are not valued. These behaviors can be messy.

In addition, it’s difficult to engage people when the only idea that matters is the boss’s idea. Businesses with this culture have a track record of high defection.

Make the most of the words you choose. Flattery and hyperbole hold empty promises which are easily detected. Blatant lies and falsehoods—well, no need to state the obvious.

Use your words to build an engaged team that understands how they contribute to your company’s success. These questions are a good place to start.

Five questions every good leader must use:

1)      How did you arrive at this conclusion? It is an interesting idea.

2)      What impact will this have on our bottom line? Our customers? Your team?

3)      What’s the worst that can happen by moving forward with your idea?

4)      What is the cost for not implementing this idea?

5)      How can I help?

To sum it all up. Words matter. Questions make a difference. How can you use your influence as a leader to encourage thinking, creativity and innovation?


©2017 Ann Elliott All Rights Reserved

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