You’ve probably worked for some great leaders. Ones that empowered and encouraged you. Ones that helped you accomplish more, and be a better leader yourself. They made you feel like your team could tackle anything. And it’s often been from words they spoke to you or about you.
And you’ve worked for some terrible ones. Leaders that made life more difficult. That made you question everything about yourself, and the project you’re working on. That made you afraid every time you opened your email, stepped in to a meeting, or answered your phone.
A leader has tremendous power with their words. Power to build up or tear down. Power to move others to action. Power to paralyze.
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. – James 3:3-5
Here are words I’ve been personally told, or have heard said to others. I cringed. Maybe these are words you’ve heard…or said.
What were you thinking?
This is typical.
I’m the boss.
If you fail, it’s on you.
I’ve got to tear you down so I can build you up.
One more little mistake and I don’t know what we can do with you.
Failure isn’t an option.
There’s no recovering from this.
You don’t know what you’re doing.
We need results, not relationships.
You ought to feel lucky just to have a job here.
You’re too young to know…
You’re too old to know…
On the flip side, words bring life. I’ve literally felt weight come off of my shoulders as I’ve heard some of these. I’ve walked into a meeting feeling burdened…and stepped out feeling like I can take on the world. Others won’t always remember what you said, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.
Life Giving Words
I’ll go first.
Let’s go together.
If you lose, we lose.
I’ve got your back.
I believe in you.
You be you.
How can I help?
You are so valuable here.
You’re incredible with ____ (be specific).
What do you need from me?
If this doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.
What barriers are you facing that I can tackle for you?
What do you need to know to do your job better?
I recognize, though, that there are times when a change needs to happen. I just *naively* believe that it can be done in such a way to honor a person, and help them grow without damaging their identity and causing them to run from the faith and from your organization. Basically, the goal here is to listen and learn before you speak.
Listen before you answer. If you don’t, you are being stupid and insulting. The first person to speak in court always seems right until his opponent begins to question him. – Proverbs 18:13, 17
Words to help steer the ship without sinking it
Help me understand…
What do you see as the crux of the issue?
Help me see the fuller picture
What piece of this am I missing?
What resources do you need to win?
Is there a different seat on this bus that you’d thrive in?
What are the things you LOVE to do?
Who can we surround you with that can help you succeed?
Leaders exist to serve others. Your words carry immense weight. Weight that can put wind in sails, steer a ship, or sink it.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. – Paul, Galatians 5:13
Use your words wisely, and build your organization well by serving others well.