As leaders, we are always communicating.
No matter how hard you try, people will interpret everything you do or say as a leader through their own lens and experience. Even when we work so hard to communicate one thing, people still can process it and derive their own meaning from our communication, which may be completely inaccurate for what is going on or what you may have intended. Even if we try to communicate nothing, it can sometimes still be interpreted as ‘something’ by others.
Leaders therefore have to realise that they are communicating at all times with every person, inside and outside their business, regardless of what they say or do. As the most visible and salient member of the organisation, leaders are closely scrutinised and communication is assumed.
If this is the case, isn't it better for leaders to be conscious of their communications, and structure their language consciously to maximise the impact that they want to achieve?
Language as a conscious choice — and tool of leaders
Every communication is a conscious choice. Too often, people simply open their mouths and are not thoughtful about what comes out — potentially causing all sorts of mayhem. Or they simply choose not to speak, and as discussed above, this leaves the people having to make up their own meanings, often completely incorrectly, around what is going on.
Leaders can therefore use language as a conscious and powerful tool within their skill set. By developing high-level communication skills, leaders can use language in highly effective, powerful ways to impact their organisation.
Some typical impacts of leadership language include:
People seek certainty. It provides a feeling of safety and comfort. Leaders, even in the most uncertain of times, can communicate using language to enhance certainty to ‘settle the troops' and direct their energies to performance tasks.
Positive, future-oriented language can be employed to facilitate smooth and effective change processes. Leaders with past, fear-based or uncertain frames of language discourage change.
Language is one of the bedrocks of culture. What is said and accepted in language either supports or damages culture. For example, is it acceptable for everyone to be ‘busy’ in your business?
Stories and teaching tales:
Using stories and teaching tales are powerful language skills that leaders can employ to engage and influence individuals and groups.
These are only a few of the many ways language empowers — or derails — great leadership in every organisation, every day.
What you can do:
- Understand that every word has an impact, and can matter
- Consciously choose the purpose of your communication
- Create certainty
- Use language to enhance the culture
- Create, over time, a body of language that enhances the business (action, purpose and outcome driven)