The Power Of A Leader’s Words And How To Leverage Them
“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”Â ThatÂ statement we were taught as children is simply not true.Â
Early in my marriage my wife said to me, “Honey, your words can either build me up or tear me down.”Â It did not take long to understand the power thatÂ my words carried.Â Â Â
For a leader, this is especially true.Â Our words canÂ cause people to soar or they can suppress innovation and creativity.Â Our words can inspire others to do things they neverÂ dreamed possible or absolutely deflate those on our team we are called to serve.Â Our words and how we utilize them are powerful.
Retired Navy Captain L. David Marquet understands how to leverage the power of language.Â Capt. Marquet has just authored Turn The Ship Around.Â The reviews have been incredible and my copy is on its way.Â The following is an excerpt from the book that demonstrates my point:
“By giving that order, I took the crew right back to the top-down command and control leadership model. That my most senior, experienced OOD would repeat it was a giant wake-up call about the perils of that model for something as complicated as a submarine. What happens when the leader is wrong in a top-down culture? Everyone goes over the cliff. I vowed henceforth never to give an order, any order. Instead, subordinates would say “I intend toâ€¦.”
Mechanism: Use “I intend to . . .” to turn passive followers into active leaders
Although it may seem like a minor trick of language, we found “I intend toâ€¦” profoundly shifted ownership of the plan to the officers.
“I intend to . . .” didn’t take long to catch on. The officers and crew loved it.
A year later, I was standing on the bridge of the Santa Fe with Dr. Stephen Covey. He’d heard what we were doing and was interested in riding a submarine. By this point, the crew had fully embraced our initiatives for control, and “I intend to . . .” was prominently visible. Throughout the day the officers approached me with “I intend to.”
“Captain, I intend to submerge the ship. We are in water we own, water depth has been checked and is 400 feet, all men are below, the ship is rigged for dive, and I’ve certified my watch team.”
I’d reply “Very well” and off we’d go.
The Power of Words
The key to your team becoming more proactive rests in the language subordinates and superiors use.
Here is a short list of “disempowered phrases” that passive followers use:
- Request permission to . . .
- I would like to . . .
- What should I do about . . .
- Do you think we should . . .
- Could we . . .
Here is a short list of “empowered phrases” that active doers use:
- I intend to . . .
- I plan on . . .
- I will . . .
- We will . . .”
What phrases have you used as a leader that have empowered and released those on your team?
Subscribe here so future posts can be sent directly to your Inbox. Also, as a gift for doing so, I will also send you a FREE copy of my latest eBook 151 Leadership Quotes: Timeless Truths That Will Make You A Better Leader.