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Leadership qualities: Stop saying these 3 words

leadership qualities, hands holding up sign that says business management, vision, mission, strategy, action, plan

Are you someone’s boss? Do you own a business? Are you in a position of authority in the workplace or daily life? If so, it’s always a good idea to review leadership qualities that can help you succeed. Think of the various leaders who have had a significant impact or influence on you in your life. What are the leadership qualities that stand out most among them? Do several of them have certain attributes in common? As important as it is to know how to act as a leader, it’s also critical to understand that there are specific things you should avoid saying or doing when acting in a position of authority.

When speaking with a subordinate or colleague in the workplace, there are three words to avoid if your goal is to be a successful leader. Using these three words can have a negative effect, making you appear as though you lack confidence or expertise in your field. These three words are quite common in everyday conversation. Chances are, you use them more than you realize. In business, especially regarding leadership qualities, however, it’s helpful to strike these words from your vocabulary.

Improve leadership qualities by avoiding the words “need, want and think”

How often do you begin a sentence with the phrase “I think”? You might say, “I think it’s going to rain today,” which may or may not wind up being true. If you’re acting in the capacity as a manager, business owner, negotiator or other professional leadership position, avoiding using this phrase. The words we use often have a subliminal effect on the person or group to whom we are speaking. When you say “I think,” it can make you sound unsure of yourself. A successful leader always exudes confidence. It can be a tough habit to break to stop using words you’re accustomed to using. Try to replace the phrase “I think” by simply stating what it is that you think without prefacing it.

For instance, you might say to an employee, “I think we should rearrange the front end shelf so that the sale items are the central focus.” See how this particular phrasing of words might make the employee doubt your confidence in your own suggestion? Instead, you can simply say, “Please rearrange the front end shelf so that the sale items are the central focus.” This sounds more confident. And, the fact is that you might not even be sure of yourself; however, there’s no reason your employee needs to know that. As for using the word “please,” when delegating a task, some might think that executives should not do this. The ultimate decision is yours, though. You could issue the command without saying, “Please.” There’s nothing wrong with showing politeness and respectfulness toward employees.

Leaders should never sound needy

David Finkel, author of “How to Succeed in Business Without Sacrificing Your Family, Health or Life,” lists mindfulness and deliberateness as valuable leadership qualities. You can read more of his thoughts on the topic, here. As a business owner or leader within a company, ministry or community, you want to convince others that you can determine a best course of action and delegate tasks to accomplish it. If you constantly use the words “I need”  when directing someone to do something, it might backfire on you.

First of all, you don’t want employees or volunteers to believe that you are self-absorbed. Instead, you’re setting the example, and if you want people to have the good of the company or ministry in mind, you must set the tone. Saying “I need” makes it sound like it’s all about you, which it isn’t. You don’t have to tell someone that you need him or her to do something. Just say what you want the person to do. Consider these two examples:

  1. “Listen up, everyone. I need you all to have your proposals to my office by Friday, at noon.”
  2.  “Listen up, everyone. Have your proposals to my office by Friday, at noon.”

See the difference? The first statement makes you sound needy. You don’t want your workers or volunteers to believe that they have a needy boss. The second statement evokes feelings of teamwork. You’re all working toward the same goal and having the proposals to your desk by noon on Friday helps accomplish the goal. Plain and simple.

Don’t tell people that you want what you want

Say, what? lol

If I say to you, “I want you to call me to discuss the new project,” it runs the risk of being misinterpreted. It makes it sound as though I’m lacking in some way or unsure of myself. It sounds like a toddler whining to a parent in a grocery store: I want, I want, I want. When improving leadership qualities is your goal, practice speaking in a more direct manner. In this particular instance, it would be better to say, “I’m free between noon and 3 p.m., tomorrow.  Call me during that time to discuss the new project. ”

Rephrasing it this way shows the worker that you are organized and eager to discuss the project. It demonstrates decisiveness and an ability to give instructions with confidence and authority. And, it leaves less room for an employee to have random thought responses. If you say, “I want you to call me,” he or she might think, “Yeah, and I want a million dollars, so what?” The employee might not comprehend that you expect him or her to follow through and that you’re giving an order.

A good leader doesn’t appear tentative or hesitant. When employees or volunteers trust what their leader says, they’re often more willing to respond and to work hard. Teamwork and morale reflects leadership. Try removing the words “think,” “need,” and “want” from your vocabulary when speaking in a professional capacity; then, let us know if you notice any positive results! If you’d like to read more about how to avoid negativity in the workplace (whether you’re an executive or employee) check out this post from our archives.

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