Why You Need to Learn How to Speak a Leadership Vocabulary

In leadership, as in most fields, there’s a specialized vocabulary. But unlike the language of most fields, the words that mean the most in leadership aren’t technical jargon. They reflect the kind of language that virtually everyone knows and uses–a series of everyday phrases, affirmations, and mantras.

Our leadership vocabulary is designed to guide people toward doing two things: First, to trust your judgment and ability to lead, and second, to contribute their own best effort to the team.

If we can learn to speak the vocabulary of leadership, we not only motivate people but inspire them to succeed.

Here are the basics:

Go for it.

It happens all the time in organizations: things get put on hold, and a decision that should have been immediate instead has to go through 17 layers of discussion. Momentum is lost and the moment to act passes. To build a strong team, you must empower your people to make things happen and let them know they can go for it.

What do you think?

Asking for input gives you the benefit of the your entire team’s expertise, experience, and perspectives, and it also shows that you’re open to listening and learning. Leading isn’t about personal wins–it’s about what serves the mission, and that requires collaboration. Ask your people what they think…

I trust you.

When you express trust in someone, you demonstrate your faith in their judgment and abilities and commitment. Trust inspires people to be bold and get things done. It’s a powerful feeling, to be handed the keys. When you say, I trust you. You are telling your people, “I know I can count on you.”

Let’s take a chance.

Taking a risk requires confidence, and sometimes you have to impart that confidence second hand. You can expect people to sit around and wait for extraordinary opportunities, or you can encourage them to be daring and create their own opportunities, knowing you’ll continue to support them even if they fail.

Keep exploring.

Sometimes before you can give a green light you need more information. Sometimes you need to weigh out a whole range of options. “Keep exploring” tells your team the importance of preparing fully and considering all the possibilities.

Here’s what’s going on.

The best leaders have a gentle and straightforward way of communicating the truth. Transparency is the surest path to trust–it keeps people informed and it keeps destructive rumor mills out of business.  Ask what is going on and stay informed.

I would like your feedback.

When you ask your team for feedback, you open yourself up to learning what is, and isn’t, working as it should. You tell them that every member of the team–even the leader–needs input from the others to operate at their smartest and best. Remember, feedback is the gift you can always give.

I messed up.

Three simple words say you can admit you’ve made a mistake and work through the consequences without blaming others or making excuses. When you say “I messed up,” you’re modeling how to be the kind of person who can give their best to everything even if they occasionally get it wrong. It’s a powerful lesson.

Let’s remember this.

When people are working together intently and everyone is deeply focused on the task in front of them, the way to create something truly extraordinary is to remind them why they’re working so hard. Keep your team connected to your shared vision by reminding them what you’re all there to do and how they make a difference.

I appreciate you because…  

Expressing gratitude and appreciation are the best ways you can ever use your time and words. Let people know how much you appreciate them and how they’ve impressed you. Be specific and personal and sincere.

Your vocabulary as a leader can make you or break you. Start with these basics and keep building on them to help you succeed.



N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R


What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

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