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.
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.