Proper Leadership Language

5 Words Leaders Seldom Use—And What to Choose Instead

The essence of leadership is communication.  As a leader, your words have the power to motivate or demoralize, inspire or discourage, clarify or confuse. The language of leadership matters a great deal to how your team performs.

Many would-be leaders discover that it’s often subtle things about their communication that keep colleagues and supervisors from considering them as capable of heavier responsibilities. Consider these common culprits:

5 Words Real Leaders Rarely Use

1- Try

To say that you’re going to try to improve market share by 5 percent in the coming year sounds like a weak, feeble attempt. Not the language of leadership. To say that your goal is to improve market share by 5 percent in the coming year is a bold, confident statement. The language of a determined leader with a plan. Both statements may mean the same thing, but they sound very different. Try comes across as lackluster without backbone or heart.


2- Amazing

Check various dictionaries, and you’ll find these definitions: “to overwhelm with surprise,” “something that is so wonderful, it is hard to find the words to match,” “to astound or perplex,” “unbelievable,” “miraculous,” “phenomenal,” “breathtaking,” “stupefying.”

In the vernacular, you hear people routinely saying, “Amazingly, I found a parking space directly in front of the store.” “That was an amazing presentation.” “The conference last year was amazing.”

Amazing has become a cliché for good or great. Rather than overblown clichés, leaders take care to use precise language.


3- Awesome

Ditto my discussion above—with a few variations. Dictionary definitions include these: “awe-inspiring,” “causing feelings of great admiration, respect, or fear,” “extremely impressive or daunting,” “an overwhelming feeling of reverence.”

In the vernacular, you hear people say, “He did an awesome job” when they mean “he did a great job.” “It’s an awesome company to work for” when they mean, … well, what could they possibly mean? That’s where the problem arises. Do they mean the company inspires them? Or that they respect what the company stands for? Or that the company is impressive? Or simply that they love working for the company?

Again, the language of leadership is precise and clear, not clichéd.

 4- Utilize

Use is a perfectly good, simple, clear word to get your point across.  Utilize unnecessarily complicates the communication process by adding extra syllables to decipher. William Strunk and E.B. White pointed out this blooper years ago in their 1920 classic The Elements of Style. Yet some still persist in complicating their writing and speaking by turning very simple concepts into complex ones.

Leaders, on the other hand, specialize in making the complex simple.


5- Irregardless

The correct word is regardless. Irregardless is not a word—yet it’s often heard in corporate halls. The bigger concept here:  Correct grammar.  To quote one of my early clients, CEO of a large financial services firm, as he was speaking to his employees about proper writing: “When I see grammar mistakes, to me it means lack of attention to detail. It suggests an attitude about how you do your job. And to our customers, when they see or hear grammar mistakes, to them it means we don’t amortize their loans correctly.”

Leaders use proper grammar.

Words matters. Leaders select them carefully and make them work.

Learn more grammar and language tips in Booher’s Rules of Business Grammar. Find more info and links to purchase here, or by clicking on the image below.