The Potter’s Wheel of Leadership
Listen to your language. It points to the future.
Habits of speech are the potter’s wheel of leadership. Both you and your organization are formed by the language you repeat.
Choose your language before it forms your future.
In order to lead, you must lead your personal habits of speech.
Reflect on your language.
- Do you feel optimistic?
- Would you like to hang around with you?
- Are you powerful or helpless?
Language is a leading indicator.
The words you say point the way.
Choose the focus of your words:
- Vision or history.
- Opportunity or adversity.
- Solutions or problems.
- Success or failure.
- Strength or weakness.
- Likes or dislikes.
- Honor or dishonor.
- Happiness or unhappiness.
- Beauty or ugliness.
- Excellence or average.
I’m not suggesting you ignore problems or negative topics. I am saying that successful leaders spend more time talking about solutions than problems, for example.
Successful leaders create common language.
Habits of speech create environments and establish direction. Direction determines destination.
Shared direction requires shared language.
7 ways to create shared language:
- Explain the power of shared language to all leaders.
- Talk about the same things. Choose two or three topics and talk about them all the time. You dilute your leadership when you talk about too many things.
- Invite leaders to craft shared language. “How will we talk to our teams?”
- Use the same words. It’s not boring. It’s reinforcing.
- Ask the same questions. “How are we engaging new people,” for example.
- Listen for common language. When you hear it, reward it.
- Confront sideways language. “That’s not our focus right now.”
People who talk alike move in the same direction.
Words create environments, set direction, and make people feel they belong.
What ineffective language do you hear leaders using?
How might leaders create shared language?
Do we paint a picture of somewhere we’d really like to go? C.S.Lewis did that. MLK Jr. did that. Good leaders do that.
Thanks Pete. I’m glad you shared your insight.
I enjoy reading your daily challenges. However, your observation above that, “successful leaders spend more time talking about solutions than problems” may be part of the problem. I think the trap here is the proportion of solutions to problems. I have found that lacking a clear understanding of the problem often invalidates the solutions we are all off chasing. At the very least, leaders should be coaching…or better yet leading by example what it means to understand a problem before advocating solutions. Perhaps this will lead your organization to better results than being able to just say we have a bunch of solutions implemented?
Thanks Jim. Some situations require greater focus on problems, technical problems, for example. What doesn’t work is leadership that focuses more on problems than on solutions.
It’s often easier to point out a problem than it is to find a solution. That doesn’t negate the idea you suggest. Define the problem before solving it.
I’m glad you joined in today.
I enjoy Dan’s blog, too. And the insights generated from people like you, Jim. I was thinking from the perspective of “cultural organization” problems rather than technical problems when Dan mentioned leaders should talk more about solutions than problems. Rather than letting negative conversation drive the culture of the organization, a leader needs to intentionally steer conversations and the cultural atmosphere toward a “we can” environment rather than a “we can’t’ culture.
Dan and Michelle, thank you for your responses. After reflecting on your comments I think we are partially saying the same thing. Perhaps I got hung up thinking that problems should go hide in the corner? It’s a bit of a trigger for me as people can see through the veil of positive language when they are living in a world of daily problems. I often say that people have renamed this, “my job.” I realize that you are describing how we can improve as leaders and this is just one small part and is most definitely situational, but I often think about how people will be capable of converting shared language into action tomorrow at 8 am if they don’t know how. I dream of an organization of engaged, creative problem solvers that gets us to a “we can” environment rather than the “we can’t” culture, so I’m glad there is a forum to continually think about how to continuously improve.
Good afternoon Dan;
“Our words are who we are. at the end of the day, be Proud of who you are.”
How we speak, the words we choose to use, and thge method which we choose to deliver them will to a large extent deteremine a Leaders level of sucsess. Regardless of the content of your conversation, ‘Attitudes’ both positive and negative effetct end results. Negativity see’s the problem, positivity find’s a solution, negativity breeds indecision, positivity inspires resolutuon.
AT THE END OF THE DAY BE PROUD OF WHO YOU ARE…
Thanks SGT. After reading your opening sentence, my mind went right to … “Be proud of your words.”
Love your posts as always and this is powerful.
I love words and language, however I am not sure about number 4.
So many people repeat words/phrases like a mantra.
I understand there is a time to do this, particularly when communicating with large groups etc but with smaller groups I think it’s important to tailor and phrase messages to individuals.
This of course means knowing and having a relationship with these individuals.
Sometimes I wonder if this repitition is lack of imagination, vocabulary or laziness!
I guess I prefer the language of a poet to an accountant/economist/militarist and try to incorporate soulful language as best I can!
Thanks Clara. One thing I love about writing Leadership Freak is learning from readers. Bringing specific situations and applications opens our eyes to new opportunities.
I’ll lean toward simplicity rather than creativity when it comes to leadership language. However, your comment is well taken.
I find that consistently asking the same question helps others focus and prepare. What new people did we engage last week? How? can keep everyone pulling in the same direction.
Thanks for sharing your insights. Much appreciated.
I find your write up simplistically enigmatic with depth and gems of wisdom one can easily personalized. Seeing leadership from a very positive inch by inch case demystifies the complexities leadership is thought to come along with. Our vocabulary is a direct reflection of what mostly occupies our thoughts remotely or a baseline of our deepest personality yet to fully emerge.
Time, circumstances and environment play a major role in the language one chooses.
I agree that mindfully using positive language is essential when creating an optimistic, solution-oriented culture. However, I’ve worked in more than one organization that had great values and vision statements that weren’t put into practice. Talking the talk without walking the walk is hypocrisy and demoralizes team members. How can a mid-level leader work to actually implement the stated values and vision in an organization like that?