Learning Leadership: The Power of Words

on August 16, 2012

A few weeks Power of Wordsago, I discussed the power of the questions we ask and how questions are often indicative of our values. Words are powerful. With words, wars have been started and ended. With words, entire cultures of people have been freed from bondage. Words encourage, words tear down. Much of the hurt we encounter in the world was caused by words.

As a leader, the words you say are critical. As a leader here at Centresource, my words are the primary vehicle I use to communicate vision. This is an area I am working on growing in each day. Many ancient proverbs teach of choosing your words wisely. Many of these are found in the book of Proverbs and these can be found in chapter ten.

Here is a list of some I’ve read recently:

“Words proclaim justice.”

As leaders we have to make tough choices. Often there doesn’t seem to be a equal opportunity decision. We have to choose justly who will get that next promotion, what pay a person deserves or who wins which argument. Words have the power to proclaim justice in our organizations and among our customers. The word “proclaim” here literally means to make known publicly. As a leader, are you leading a company that treats your customers justly? Are you proclaiming to your team that the principle of justice will be a marking of your organization?

“Words spread hope for the future, becoming a foundation of life to others.”

Daily, I speak of the future. I lay plans and strategies. Show me a leader who is growing and I’ll show you a leader who is learning to more accurately share their vision with those around them. In an age of an uncertain economy and a culture of easily offended citizens, it is imperative that we speak hope over those we lead and that we use words that lead to an overcoming and conquering outcome over seemingly impossible situations. Are you the leader that stands like a rock when the rain comes, or do you panic and lead others into a frenzy?

“Words speak forth wisdom and save others from ruin.”

Marc Fortune, one of my mentors and founder of Force Five here in Nashville gave me an illustration once that has always stuck with me. He said for me to consider myself on a sailboat. As the man holding the wheel I was only responsible for seeing a little ways in front of the boat, however if I was in the fly deck I was responsible for looking miles out to avoid any future problems. As leaders we need to be looking three to six months out rather than day-to-day. We have the duty of being watchmen. As such, we are responsible for seeing dangers before others in our organization have cause to worry. What activities do you use to be a watchman in your organization?

“Leaders know when silence is more powerful than speaking.”

This one is a tough teaching for me. Silence is not one of my favorite cards to play. A wise leader knows when to speak and when to be silent. Sometimes silence is exactly what is needed. Someone taught me once that listening is more than waiting on your turn to speak. Sitting in silence has become part of my weekly routine. Do you set aside time to sit and be still? When someone is talking are you always thinking of your next play or are you simply being quiet and listening.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold and baskets of silver.”

A common leadership style is to contend that words of affirmation aren’t needed unless something spectacular is accomplished. This prevailing mindset leads to statements like, “I pay them and that’s thanks enough.” This bull headed attitude does not inspire people. I work hard to encourage my team. Some leaders grow calloused to encouraging others because they may not get told “thanks” or “good job” very often. Since they don’t get much praise, they hoard praise and keep locked away except for special occasions. However, I believe you reap what you sow and even more than that…if you don’t get praise back, consider it a blessing to keep you grounded. Wise leaders are kind and encouraging to those who may not even be kind or encouraging to them. Anyone can be kind to those who are kind back to them, but true leaders are kind even if they get nothing in return.

I know this is a ton of information to take in, but daily I seek wisdom for use of my words. One sentence said (even if out of context) by a leader can have tremendous impact on your relationships and ultimately your business.

So ask yourself…do you choose your words wisely?