Do you know how to communicate like a leader?
Is it something you struggle with?
I once read an article about phrases that make recruiters laugh. One of these phrases was “I’m a Jedi Master at…”
This phrase reminded me of a few other words/phrases that are considered juvenile yet have somehow made it into our business vocabulary.
Here are some of them.
Phrases you should avoid if you want to communicate like a leader:
I hate when people ask me what my superpower is.
I don’t have superpowers. Nor do you.
What I do have are skills.
Skills I’ve developed, and things I like doing—things I do very well. But these things aren’t superpowers.
Superpowers are “discovered” by superheroes as something they possess.
I’m not sure about you, but I’m pretty sure that these powers were rarely—if ever—developed.
Spider-Man got bitten by a spider. That’s how he got his superpower. He didn’t spend hours a day practicing skills that would enable him to win American Ninja Warriors!
Look: you don’t have to talk in cliches or exaggerations to be larger than life (by the way, here are some tips on some of the best ways to be larger than life). Speaking in cliches is overkill. All you have to do is ask yourself what you can do to initiate deeper thinking in a person.
2. Crush (also “crush it”)
We can’t just compete and win. We have to crush: carnage! devastation! disaster! How exciting.
When I hear this, it seems to me that the goal isn’t just to win but to be better than your competitor.
To crush him or her.
Maybe it’s just me, but this seems fueled by too much testosterone.
The phrase is simple hyperbole.
Winning well, playing hard, even dominating a competition all seem reasonable to me. But, past that, crushing or crushing it seems unnecessary and even braggadocious.
Language is a glimpse into who you are and how you think. I’m fully aware that these words are used in a spirit of fun. But to communicate like a leader, you should avoid cliche, hyperbole, and exaggeration.
Effective leaders know that nuanced language can sometimes be more powerful than exclamatory language.
Language that is too easy and too common is vanilla in a world of word flavors.
Readers and listeners take common language for granted or discount what is being said due to familiarity.
We might use words like ‘crush it’ with zest, but they stay at the surface. They don’t penetrate the heart of the mind.
Hyperbole doesn’t challenge deeper thinking and better explanation.
And to communicate like a leader, you need to speak in a language that initiates deeper thinking, challenging thinking, and progress. Don’t overthink it! (Read this blog post for some things you should know about the dangers of overthinking).
Picture this: Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon and yelling, “Crushing it for the space program!”
Remember: gravitas is important to leaders.
Words like ‘Jedi Master’, ‘superpowers’, and the rest of that ilk may be dramatic, but they not only lack gravitas, they diminish it.
When it comes to learning how to communicate like a leader, the challenge is to think more carefully about the words you use, and whether that language best serves your purpose as a leader. Here’s a great guide to better thinking that will help you think more carefully about the words you use.
Avoid the common and the familiar.
Don’t be different for the sake of being different. Be different for the sake of being better.
Mark Sanborn is a leadership keynote speaker and advisor to leaders based in Denver, CO.
To learn more about how to turn ordinary into extraordinary and communicate like a leader, take a look at any of my wide collection of resources, which offer invaluable advice about leadership, customer service, extraordinary performance, and more. You can also consider reading my Extraordinary Living Journal – buy one, get one free!
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This post was originally published on October 17, 2018 and has been updated for 2019.