The Power of Language in Leadership

The Power of Language in Leadership

Language really matters. Especially if you intend to bring people on board and persuade them to follow you and your ideas. It’s not just the message that needs to resonate; the way it’s translated into words also shapes its impact and the actions it inspires. If you want your vision to re-frame people’s mindsets and move them to act, you need to use productive, active language.

Workhorse Verbs. Verbs carry sentences, and the ones that do the heavy lifting, bringing energy to your message, are called “workhorse verbs” or “powerhouse verbs.” Compare these two statements:“We discussed the opportunity to develop a new product” with “We explored boosting our offering.”Workhorse verbs move your story forward, create powerful imagery and convey a confident tone. Create a list of verbs that attract you but are not yet part of your everyday vocabulary. Pick one a day, and set a target of using it at least three times that day. You’ll find that over a short time many of these words will become part of your regular repertoire.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words. When describing the future, you can’t use facts and figures. You don’t have statistics to prove your points. You must largely rely on your imagination. And to convincingly bring your audience into the future, you must unlock their imagination, helping them envision a different world. Images and visual language such as metaphors and analogies are of vital importance in bridging the gap between the cerebral and the imaginative. They help people “see” it.

Memorable Metaphors. Metaphors do more than just informing and making the message stick.They also add a layer of emotion to the content. By accessing your associative brain, a metaphor immediately hitches emotions to the message. Look around you right now and consider the objects you see as metaphors. Create a sentence for each: “Our future is like . . . a telephone,” “Our future is like . . . a water-cooler,”“Our future is like . . . a vase of flowers,” and so on.

Actionable Analogies. To see things in a different light, your audience must re-frame their minds.This requires insight plus an acceptance of the fact that there is a different way to look at our future, and even at ourselves. For example, if you are responsible for a hospital, a hospital division or a medical team and you state that you want to be considered the Singapore Airlines of the health care industry, people will get it. They will immediately understand that quality of service matters to you.

Let Me Tell You a Story... Stories inspire; they’re catchy and heighten our natural curiosity. Moreover, stories communicate values and make them accessible, understandable, and believable. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, says,“Stories are data with a soul. Data wrapped in stories have the ability to move people, to inspire people to take action.”

For your visionary communication to become authentic, you need to integrate a special type of story — the personal anecdote. Your personal anecdotes are much more than just insightful recollections; they communicate something about your character. In other words, they provide your story with a soul. Sharing a meaningful personal anecdote shifts your rhetoric from the head to the heart. When you share it, you’ll relive the emotions and show what you truly care about. This kind of honesty automatically makes you and your story truly authentic.

A truly powerful vision provides direction and is emotionally engaging and authentic. It’s an invaluable tool for (aspiring) leaders that allows you to do what leadership is all about: to ignite others. 

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