The Language of Leaders, part 1
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The Language of Leaders, part 1
by: Deb Calvert
Language is one of the most powerful tools that we humans use to distinguish
ourselves one from another. When we choose words carefully, we are viewed as
being in command, powerful, as we describe the world around us. Leaders go one
step further. They use words to produce a world and a future that would not
otherwise exist. We choose to follow others who paint pictures and compelling
images of what could be.
These words (illustration, left) appeal to individuals. These
words evoke positive emotions that inspire us and imply a promise of something
we yearn for. They get right to our core, our innermost needs. By using these
words authentically, a leader causes us to believe in ourselves and in the
Of course, it is not advisable to use words as weapons. Because these words
do persuade and have a certain power, they should be used judiciously and
selectively. It is irresponsible to use these words only as a way to manipulate
or trick others. A leader’s power, when gained by hollow words, will soon
diminish as he or she is exposed for not making good on the promises and
possibilities that were so compelling.
It has been said, for this very reason, that talk is cheap. So leaders may
need to do more in order to be persuasive.
The strongest leaders, those who inspire followers over a long period of
time, are those who make good on the promises they put out there. They start
with the language of leaders, but they sustain through their actions. Their
follow through is at the heart of their credibility.
Here are ten ways you can improve your leadership language. In our next blog
post, we’ll add ten more techniques to this list.
- When speaking, relate the new ideas to something that is more familiar.
Make links to what is better known and more comfortable so people have a safe
- Start out with the most important information. Given the choice between a
slow build and a strong opening, go with the high-impact opening every time. It
will get the attention you need so that you can follow up with the history,
details or background information needed for context.
- Create a picture. Many people are visual. They need to “see” something to
understand it. More so, they need to see themselves in the picture in order to
understand the relevance and importance for them.
- Be sure to use actual examples. While some people have an interest in and desire
for the “out there” abstracts, others have a low tolerance for anything that
seems untested. Be sure, for them, to include concrete data, examples,
precedents and tiebacks.
- Use plain, simple language. Words are more powerful when they are understood.
What’s more, to inspire large groups, you need to have common understanding.
People may not have time to process complex ideas. So go for what’s clear.
- Since you are inspiring others with persuasive language and even painting a
verbal picture that includes them in that picture, don’t leave them hanging by
failing to include a call to action. Once stirred, people desire an opportunity
to do something with their passion. Outline those next steps at the same time
you’ve shared your vision.
- Strong statements have an active voice rather than a passive one. To be
convincing and compelling, be sure to phrase your sentences with an action verb
and an ownership noun. Say “We shall overcome” rather than “it shall be
- Anticipate the unasked questions and answer them even before they have been
posed. Remember that no one wants to be left with a feeling of uncertainty and
everyone wants to know “what’s in it for me.” The unasked questions will likely
center on those two themes, so put some thought into those questions and your
answers. Then weave your story in a way that directly addresses those issues.
- Don’t be shy about appealing to basic human needs. If people are hungry,
homeless, feeling disconnected or experiencing a lack of stability in their
lives, then you can’t expect them to be interested in a higher cause. Basic
human needs must be met before next level needs will be of interest.
- Be yourself. You will never speak any words that are more powerful than your
own. Your convictions, your voice, and your authentic self are nobler and more
appealing than you think. Try speaking from your heart instead of over-thinking
what you will say and getting in your own way.
When you employ these tips, you will be persuasive and effective in getting
your ideas across to others. You will be seen as a leader.
Deb Calvert is President, People First Productivity Solutions
Published here on: 02-Jun-13
Classification: Development, leadership