Professional Development

5 Powerful Words and Phrases That Make You Sound Like a Leader

Written by Peter Jones

Words have an incredible amount of power. Using the right words in the right setting can be a tool with enormous potential. Your choices in phrasing can make you respected or reviled.

Great leaders use words to inspire, intimidate, engage. Here are 5 phrases great and powerful leaders use—and you should too, if you’d like to sound like a leader.

1. “And”

Saying “and” instead of “or” shows that you don’t think in terms of black and white, and you don’t limit your options. You add a third possibility to every either/or situation by adding the idea of both. Even if it doesn’t work out that way, there’s no use limiting your options just by the words you choose to delineate them.

2. “Why”

You know how little kids have that phase of “Why? Why? Why?”? Ask yourself why adults don’t use the word more often. It’s a great way to engage with the situation at hand, think outside the box, understand the problem, and come up with a more targeted and inspiring solution.

3. “Tell me more.”

Your impulse is to say “no.” How about saying “tell me more” instead? You might be missing something. Either way, you give your questioner the chance to make a better case. If you withhold your judgment until you have a more nuanced sense of what it is you’re judging, you’ll see more of the situation before deciding. It also signifies that you are willing to listen—even if you end up saying “no” in the end. Great leaders are good listeners.

4. “Whether”

We often get caught up in how we’re going to do something and bogged down in details of how to accomplish a task that might not be worth all the time and effort if examined more closely. If you remember to ask “whether” it’s worth approaching first, then you can save yourself and your team a lot of wasted resources and energy. Ask “how” second.

5. “What do you think we should do?”

This is not just a great way of getting ideas from your colleagues, it’s a good way of thinking outside the box, seeing things through others’ eyes, and not limiting the variety of options at hand. You call can brainstorm together and bounce ideas off one another. Asking this question makes you the ultimate team player, someone who knows he needs others to get the task at hand done. Plus: discussion always encourages innovation. Everybody wins.

About the author

Peter Jones