Insights in Leadership

Genuine Leaders are Impeccable with Their Words

February 16, 2015


We use our words to lead. More accurately, we use our words to influence; to exercise our power as leaders. In this, we have the power to build others up, and also the power to destroy. Consider this short story of what happened to one worker:


"A few days ago I made a serious error; many team-hours were wasted, not to mention the monetary cost. I felt horrible about it! When my supervisor found out, she lost control. She shouted at me for what seemed like an eternity, and made sure that I felt like a complete idiot. After that, things just weren't the same for me. I’ve avoided making important decisions ever since."


The leader in this case not only violated  the self-esteem of this worker, she took away his ability to act with self-confidence. Quite literally, his destiny could change because of his shifting to a "gun-shy" paradigm. His relationship with his supervisor will likely never be the same.


There are also second and third order effects. Some of her team will hear about this event and also act to avoid her wrath. Plus, this incident now becomes a part of this supervisor's reputation; a little bit of how others define her. Part of who she is and what she stands for in their eyes. This affects her ability to influence.


In light of all these negatives, the leader in this case should act expeditiously to correct the situation; control the damage.


There are three core paradigms of genuine leadership that apply for her:

  1. Leadership is influence.

  2. To be influential, leaders must have awareness.

  3. A leader's focus should be outward; toward their team. They should do what is right for their team above themselves.


Her course of action is straight-forward; admit she was wrong, apologize, and then have a sound and sane discussion with the worker about what went wrong, making sure it is constructive in nature.


Open and honest humility works in this case because it results in the leader being impeccable with her words. This is one mark of a genuine leader. They are not perfect, but in fact model for their team how to properly deal with imperfection.


 "The sages do not consider that making no mistakes is a blessing.  They believe, rather, that the great virtue of man lies in his ability to correct his mistakes and continually make a new man of himself.“  - Wang Yang-Ming (1472-1529)



The concept of being impeccable with your word is based on: Ruiz, Don Miguel (1997), The Four Agreements. San Rafael, CA, Amber-Allen Publishing.



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