Smart leaders know they are scrutinized with every word and action taken. As a leader, how and what you say has consequences. You need to watch your words, they are extremely influential.
With position, power, and influence comes responsibility. We yearn for leaders we can believe in and trust. Let’s have a frank conversation about why you must watch your words.
We cannot read minds
Leaders, we want to know what you think. We want to know where you are taking us. We know you will make decisions and take actions in the future that will affect us. How you present your ideas persuade us to either follow or resist. Most of us are not in our circle of friends or influence. One of the ways to understand what you think is to pay attention to what you write or say. Your words matter to us.
Turn us into believers
You need to prove to us that you are trustworthy. We are sceptical of leadership. Before you open your mouth or hit send on your mobile device, please check your facts. Once it comes out of your mouth, you cannot take back what you said. Yes, you can spin a message or apologize for a misstatement but each time you do, you chip away at your credibility.
We connect with people who we believe are credible. We follow leaders we trust. Stephen M. R. Covey gave us a practical model for credibility. We look for all four of these characteristics to determine if a leader is credible: integrity, intent, capability, and results. We will assess your character (and whether we like it). Then we will look deep to understand your integrity and your intent. What you say gives us visibility and clarity to both.
Silence is acceptance
We evaluate leaders by what they say. We evaluate leaders by what they don’t say. It troubles us when you do not call out bad performance or behaviour. If my co-worker’s performance is below standards and you fail to address it, we think you are either showing favouritism, a hypocrite or a coward. We hold leaders to a high standard and we want you to live up to it.
Be careful of your timing and tone
Words can instantly inspire, inform, motivate, explain, upset, scare or divide. Words matter so does “when” and “how” you deliver your message.
We recognize it is difficult for you to determine the right time to comment on tough issues. However, in the absence of your statements, we make up stories in our heads. Science tells us that once we make up our minds, it is harder to move us in a different direction.
Your tone is important. We want to believe you are sincere and mean what you say. We see mixed messages when your tone and words do not match. Tone circles back to your credibility and believability.
Language makes us human. Words have power. They evoke thoughts, emotion, and reaction. Great leaders and communicators have a unique ability to use words to draw us toward them. We hope you take to heart what we have said. Our words matter too.
Connie Wedel is a US-based global HR executive, leadership coach, equal rights advocate, global citizen, writer, speaker, and mom. Her background includes working with businesses, leadership, and employees over 6 continents across various industries.
Connie holds an Executive Masters in HR Management from Cornell University. She maintains SPHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP certifications and teaches Organizational Behavior at the University of California, San Diego., She is periodic contributor Business Insider, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Ellevate Network.