Choose Your Words Wisely: Speak the Language of a Leader

By: The Humphrey Group

Effective leaders master the skill of powerful leadership language. The ideas you share are important, but so are the words you use to express them. The key is to choose clear, distinct language that make your ideas compelling and memorable. Conveying your thoughts concisely and removing all the business jargon from your vocabulary will help you connect more than ever with your team. 

As a leader, ask yourself, is your language helping or hindering your ability to lead?

Here are five areas of focus you can reflect on to answer this question and intentionally use your words to inspire others.


Be mindful of your audience

Language often fails to inspire others when it is not audience-centered. In other words, as a speaker, you cannot presume your listener is familiar with every aspect of what you do or what you are trying to convey, especially if you have a highly technical job. Ensure that your language is balanced enough, so that your sentences make perfect sense to someone who may not share the same technical experience. Remember, for those who are unfamiliar, you may as well be speaking a different language! For example, your HR team might be comfortable talking to each other about KPIs. But will members of your IT team know what that means? Always use language that is familiar to your audience.


Simplify difficult messages

Oftentimes language fails to inspire because it is frequently used to disguise difficult messages. We’re human! – Sometimes we choose language that we feel will preempt conflict by taking the edge off our message. Yes, the message is still delivered, but complicating your language in this way will disconnect and alienate you from your audience. Ultimately, using language that obscures your true meaning won’t do you any favors. All you’ll be doing is passing up the opportunity to deliver your message with integrity and potentially a failed leadership moment. Practice deflating your words, and replacing jargon with substance. To deflate your words, translate your inflated jargon words into simpler ones. Try to come up with the simplest

translation you can, using shorter words and shorter sentences. 


Use confident verbs

Be confident. Believing in yourself as a leader is fundamental, especially if you want others to believe you. Replace minimizing language with confident phrases. The first step to eliminating language that undermines us is to become aware of our habits. Some of the most common minimizing language habits are weak verbs. Using confident verbs such as “I believe”, “I know I can”, and “I am confident that” provides compassionate reassurance and can let your team know how their contributions are valued. Taking the time to nurture solidarity and using assertive language, tells others how confident you feel about the topic at hand.


Eliminate jargon from your vocabulary

Convincing leadership language doesn’t necessarily mean employing a structured hierarchical template, nor does it mean a nonreciprocal means of communication from you to your team. Surely enough, conversations are a key part of the communications process, allowing parties to develop mutual understandings and to continue to improve messaging and review priorities. This is where you can practice being clear and simple. A good starting point would be to use words such as “use” instead of “Utilize”. Adopt the use of short easily digestible sentences. Remember, personal pronouns such as “I”, “we”, and “You”, help to make sentences less ambiguous.


Be concise and precise

Embrace simplicity. “We need this by Friday” instead of “It would be great if we could have this by Friday, because we will need it for the meeting” – Can you spot the difference? Take the time to understand the purpose of your communication and what you are trying to achieve.  Choosing the right language and communicating the essentials will help your audience to promptly consume your message. One of the simplest ways to practice the disciplines of being concise is to eliminate unnecessary add-ins and add-ons. Examples of add-ins are words like really, very, mostly, or totally -- most sentences are more impactful without them.

Generally, the measure of good leadership language is how stimulated and inspired your audience feels after a conversation with you. Creating an all-round dynamic and enthusiastic atmosphere often means commanding attention from your audience. Your choice of words is a simple yet crucial strategy you can use to influence and inspire anyone you communicate with at work.

Learn more about convincing leadership communications with The Humphrey Group here