I’ve seen a number of articles this month on the general topic of how to speak as a leader. For those who have read Stephen Denning’s savvy work on the topic, The Secret Language of Leadership, the sage advice from these columns will be familiar.  They talk about setting a clear, inspiring vision for your organization, for getting out front (leading vs bossing), and for making the group’s story your own–in a colloquial and passionate way.

It would be hard to disagree with any of the points made, but I will take issue with one piece of leadership language that seems to have been universally omitted.  I hope it’s been left out because it seems so basic or obvious, but in my career it’s been the most powerful arrow a leader can hold in his scabbard.  It’s also something that seems to be forgotten so often that I think it bears mentioning.

There are no two more powerful words a leader can speak than “thank you.”  Just like the now famous video of a single tiny domino that topples a 20 foot wall, “thank you” is a tiny gesture that can ultimately make the difference in a critical negotiation or give spirit to a tired worker.  And just like the domino, a sincere “thank you” has a cumulative effect that can move people in ways no other words can.

Even though the omission of “thank you” is likely just an oversight from the leadership textbooks, it’s one whose effects are felt in the business world.  I’ve worked with (and for) far too many leaders who seem not to know the phrase—or deliver it in miserly doses.   Though many truly appreciate the work and partnership of others, you’d never know it from their vocabulary.

Words like “please” and “sorry” also rank up there with “thank you” as the most forgotten leadership language.  In fact, if you take a look at this list of 25 manners every child should know by age nine, you’ll see what should be the foundation of every leadership book and article published.

With that, I’ll say “thank you for reading.”  Let me know what words or phrases I missed.

Photo: Shorpy,

21 thoughts on “On the Language of Leadership

  1. I think Leadership is like shepherds manage their flocks. He use “heart” with clear order, all in the end for the final purpose itself. And the best things is when the flocks now their position as a flocks. If every soldier act like a general then its a doom to the army.

    We trying to help and fix people but “some people aka the wolf” need to be taught differently.

  2. Hello Blake,

    I am pleased you’ve featured “Thank you” in one of your posts. As simple or discounted as it may sound, most people simply do not have it ion their vocabulary. In my personal professional or life experience, I have noticed its rarity in my earlier career and immediately realized that its normal use in my own vocabulary would construe a competitive advantage in having other perceive my true personality and leadership skills. As team member, team leader, friend, husband, father, brother, son or relative, using simple or discounted words (please, thank you, thank you much, kind, kindly, kindest, my regards, pleased, delighted, lovely, loved, passionate) has always been making my relationship and life much easier and eventually helping the positive perception I often benefit from people I deal with.

    Thank you for sharing this post with your audience, please find some rare time to elaborate further on the simplest side of leadership.

    http://ericfmyblog.blogspot.it/

    Eric

  3. Hi Blake,
    Very good point! It’s the small things that distinguish real leaders. I have always found in my business, whether it is customers or associates, that a simple “thank you” can truly set you apart from others. Thanks again for sharing your perspective and reinforcing what is often overlooked.

  4. Hi Blake,
    Very good point! It’s the small things that distinguish real leaders. I have always found in my business, whether it is customers or associates, that a simple “thank you” can truly set you apart from others. Thanks again for sharing your perspective and reinforcing what is often overlook

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  6. You are correct in what you say. Many employees work on the basis that they will be rewarded with a wage at the end of the day. Sometimes an even bigger reward is a simple thank-you for going the extra mile. This is based upon being recognised for your efforts by the managers and leaders, which in turn leads to respect from the employees.

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