Listen - Words Have PowerI’m often amazed and almost always disappointed when I hear leaders speak with a vocabulary peppered by more than its fair share of I/Me/My. What I’m really listening for, are leaders who speak using the words We/They/Our. If you hear a leader who uses those phrases, my experience suggests you will also find a highly effective individual, being rewarded with an above average, high performing team. I coined this as the I/We Ratio and it has a direct impact on leadership effectiveness.

Language shapes behavior and has a powerful impact on performance. In fact, much has been written on the inextricable link between leadership and communications. How leaders speak and the words they choose to describe themselves and their team or organization never go unnoticed. I remember clearly attending a business event several years ago where the guest speaker was the CEO of very prominent industry player who was relatively new to the role but with prior experience as a Chief Executive. With most his senior leadership team in attendance he described “my Vision” for the organization, “my leadership team” and how “I planned to lead the organization forward into the future”. I’m certain that perhaps the only other members of the audience who picked up on this more clearly that I did were in fact, the members of his team.

So much has been written in leadership literature about the power and effectiveness of humility. Humbleness is a vitally important leadership trait in today’s highly collaborative work environment. Very little truly get accomplished in any organization if not for the result of two and usually more members of a team working together to produce results greater than any of them could have done on their own. Renowned author Jim Collins called this Level 5 Leadership and described the need for a balance of Humility plus Will. Humility breeds respect, respect coupled with respectful communication, in turn, breeds trust, and trust has proven to drive a higher level of performance.

So, if you’re a leader today pay very careful attention to the words you choose. Pay attention to your I/We Ratio or better yet have one or two trusted colleagues monitor and report on it for you. Always err on the side of We/They/Our when speaking with or about your team/organization or about yourself. It will pay huge dividends in terms of higher levels of engagement and commitment and ultimately better performance.

At Lighthouse NINE we develop and coach leaders and one of the key areas we focus on is humility and humble communications. For more information go to

Mark Henderson
Lighthouse NINE Group
One Eva Road, Suite 209 | Toronto ON M9C 4Z5
Office: 416-607-6919
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