The Language of Leadership

When we speak of a leadership language it normally evokes a puzzled response, yet the language of leadership is the most important language on earth. The article is another in the series of Leadership X Factors.

What is language?

Language by definition is the use of symbols to communicate meaning. We see language mainly in terms of words and expressions, but the language we communicate with to others include other forms of communication such as body language and perceptions of our credibility.

Over and above the thousands of languages found all over the world, each of the professions has their own language. The IT professionals often confuse the rest of us with their constant flow of technical chatter. The medical profession talks a language of their own. Then they prescribe medication in scribbled hand writing that pharmacists adroitly profess to understand and we have to believe them.

What is leadership?

Leadership should be defined not just in terms of seniority of position, but in terms of that which influences movement and values in our society. Good leadership exerts positive influences on movement and values. Bad leadership corrupts movement and positive values.

In terms of this definition of leadership everybody is a leader in some way or other, because all of us are constantly involved in either causing or corrupting positive movement and values around us. Every word we speak, every gesture we make, every smile or frown, every expression we have are all part of the language we speak. Whether our language is a positive leadership language or a negative leadership language depends on us.

It is in terms of the above definitions we speak of the language of leadership.  All of the professions and occupations kick into good or bad leadership mode when they apply their skills and authority. All of us whether in the work place or at home or having fun, of necessity are good or bad leaders whenever we open our mouths to speak or to communicate in whatever manner we choose. Leadership is generally not considered as a profession as such, yet it is and will always be the most important function of our society. Leadership is the business of movement.  We all need to understand and speak a good leadership language or else we will be part of the problem.

In the old days the leadership language of some professions such as the army were characterized by impressive cursing and yelling. Officers I know in the defence force tell me this is not acceptable any longer. They are expected and trained to be leaders without using abusive language.

What kind of leadership language do you and I use?

The daily language we use reveals our kind of leadership language. We can describe our daily language as falling into three categories:

1.       A positive or seamless leadership language, moving situations and people towards their full potential.

2.       A negative language that inclines towards corruption of that which is positive and good around us.

3.       A kind of mixture of both worlds depending on our attitudinal mood at the time.

Next time you are in a meeting or gathering, try to measure the kind of language you are hearing around you. Try to identify those words and expressions that seem to bring out the better part of you. Sift out those words and expressions that tend to entice you to be a lesser person than you can be. Next time you read a newspaper, article or book, judge for yourself how the words you read impact on your inner being.  

Leadership language and the five commonalities of life

All of us are in daily contact with the five commonalities of life. This is called the SiPCOM factor. These are situations, people, choices, obstacles and movement. The following are all components of a universal leadership language that boosts our ability to master the commonalities of life.

·         The language of a positive attitude towards all situations we come in contact with.

The seamless leadership language contains words and feelings in support of universal values such as faith, achievement, honesty, accountability, compassion, unity, truth, encouragement, courage and hope. As soon as we drift away from a positive value system we are speaking another language, not a positive or seamless leadership language.

·         The language of positive and inspirational relationships with people.

The words and expressions we use is nowhere more crucial than in our relationships with people. The language of respect for the dignity and potential of others has far reaching impact that often cascades for years afterwards. The poem says: ‘Whenever my eyes meet yours, we go on a journey, you and I’.  The advantages we accrue as we discipline our natural inclination to say deriding things about others far outweigh the temporary satisfaction of a selfish urge to hurt another person.

·         The language of positive choices.

To have the freedom and power to choose is a gracious and priceless gift. As we practice this gift by choosing value driven options we inherit a heritage of ability and confidence to move barriers to potential. The inclination to make negative choices is a natural human tendency that often causes irreparable harm. The Law of Opposites states that ‘all situations have unlimited conceptual opposites to choose from’.

·         The language of facing obstacles (or perceived obstacles) with hope and courage.

What a difference it makes when we are in contact with a person who encourages others to face obstacles with faith and hope because they have a track record of doing that. The truth is that you and I cannot grow as leaders without the invaluable experience of facing challenges and opposition in all things. Our language should reflect this truth and portray the necessary courage to face our obstacles in life.  

·         The language of positive movement.

Life is all about change and movement dynamics. Our language should reflect a confidence in processes that empower us to move mental, emotional, physical and organisational barriers to potential. When our language indicates that we feel ‘stuck’ between the frying pan and the fire then we become part of the problem that somebody else must fix.

Everybody is a leader in some way or other, because all of us are constantly involved in either causing or corrupting positive movement and values around us. Every word we speak, every gesture we make, every smile or frown, every expression we have are all part of the leadership language we speak.

Good luck in your efforts to upgrade your leadership language and to appreciate the leadership language skills you have developed over the years.

Key principles in article:

1.       The language of leadership is the most important language on earth

2.       Defining language

3.       Defining leadership

4.       Defining leadership language

5.       What kind of leadership language do we speak?

6.       Categories of leadership language

7.       Leadership language and the commonalities of life


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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Louis on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.






Louis has been fanatically endeavoring to uncover universal leadership principles and models for longer than most of us have been alive. He is an author, leadership expert, father, grandfather, and the Co-Founder of Leadership Platform.

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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