Avoiding the Language Traps that Hurt Your Leadership

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Even the most authentic, humble leaders can inadvertently project arrogance by the careless use of language.

For me, this is a clear and present danger I must watch carefully.

What are some of the ways that your use of language can create this problem?

There are many examples, but here are a few “doozies” to avoid…

“I’ll have my assistant set this up…”

If you’re fortunate enough to have someone on your team assigned to help you coordinate administrative details, avoid referring to them as “my assistant”. (And don’t even think of calling them “my secretary”. That went out with manual typewriters).

Without realizing it, you can be delivering a subtle message that not only are you important enough to have a “p.a.”, but that this person is clearly lower on the organizational pecking order.

Better to simply say, “My teammate Joe will help us find a time to meet.”

“After a conference I was speaking at, someone came up to me and asked…”

If you do any conference speaking this is an easy trap to fall into.

It sounds innocent enough, but in reality it is conveying that you are sitting atop “Mount Wisdom”, as underlings “come up to you” seeking your pearls of wisdom.

This was pointed out to me via a great blog post written by an author whose name escapes me. (If you happen to know who first noted this gem please pass that name along.)

Better to simply say, “I was once asked…” Leave the conference reference and the “someone came up to me” out of the picture.

“Oh, I can’t meet that day. I need to be in (Beijing, Paris, Rome…)”

As someone who travels for work, I need to be so very careful about “city-name dropping”. When you toss in one of these exotic sounding locations in conversation it can really sound a bit uppity.

Better to simply say, “Sorry, I’m unavailable that day.”

Even, “I’m out of town that day” is preferable.

(By the way, notice that people rarely city-name drop when they’re visiting non-exotic locations?)

Why do I point these out? Each of these are coaching tips I have received over the years from trusted mentors, and they have helped me enormously.

Check your own use of these types of phrases.

Because you could be projecting hints of arrogance that just don’t reflect who you really are.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Global Leadership Network. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave, Willow & Olive and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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