Simple Choices Give Direction to Your Leadership

Responding to unforeseen events is part of your day. But if all you do is bounce from one issue to the next:

  1. You’re a problem-solver. The better part of leadership is seizing opportunities.
  2. You’re an answer-giver. The better part of leadership is developing people who find answers without you.


Pinball leaders don’t know where they’re going. When you don’t know where you’re going, the path is disappointing. Urgencies replace priorities. Eventually, leadership is filled with trivialities.

A leader with direction rises above pinball leadership.

Simple choices:

Make simple choices that give direction to your leadership.

Give direction to your leadership by intentionally choosing words that reflect the priorities of your leadership.

Skillful leaders respect the power of words.

The right words at the right time become the difference between progress and frustration.

#1. Reject words that minimize people or challenges. For example, don’t say to a struggling manager,

  1. It’s easy.
  2. It’s not that bad.
  3. Don’t worry. Telling a worried person not to worry intensifies frustration and gives the impression that you’re out of touch.

#2. Choose words that strengthen connection.

  1. I screwed up. (The Culture Code) Vulnerability enables high candor relationships.
  2. I’m counting on you.
  3. You earned this opportunity because…. Instill confidence in people if you expect them to act boldly.

#3. Choose words to repeat.

  1. Thank you.
  2. Please.
  3. I appreciate (character trait) about you.

#4. Choose last words intentionally.

Last words express first priorities.

  1. What do you say at the end of meetings or one-on-ones?
  2. What do you say at the end of the day?

Making simple choices – even when pressured by urgencies – gives direction to your leadership.

How might leaders navigate the pinball challenge?

What words hinder effective leadership? Enable effective leadership?

Bonus material:

How to Focus on What’s Important, Not Just What’s Urgent (HBR)

9 Things Great Leaders Say Every Day (Inc)