Creative Leadership

Five Things Leaders Should Stop Saying

What you say and what people hear can be two different things…

I’m busy: Nobody cares. We’re all “busy” these days. When you regularly remind everyone how busy you are, what they hear is: “I’m obviously more important than you and I’m doing more important work.” In a world where everyone is busy, proclaiming your busyness doesn’t help.

I’m authentic: Stop telling people how “authentic” you are and just start being authentic. Authenticity means the real thing. It’s the term we use to confirm an original painting or other collectible object. It’s means truthful and not false. Which means that if you have to remind people that you’re authentic, then you’re probably not.

I’ve been doing this for _____ years: I once got into an argument with a publisher over a book cover design. I would point out the creative reasons for the design I preferred – but for his preferences, the only defense he had was, “Phil, I’ve been doing this for 25 years. I know what works.” He couldn’t tell me why it supposedly worked, so the only thing he could throw at me was that he’d been doing it for 25 years. Experience is good, but it doesn’t equal expertise. A real authority knows his stuff, so he doesn’t have to remind everyone about his long experience. In fact, the minute someone uses that on me, red flags go up.

He or she is my personal friend: We’ve all been guilty of this in our writing, speaking, and conversation. We mention someone famous or important – someone we know – and just can’t help but mention that he or she is our personal friend. The problem is its been overdone to the point that everyone immediately recognizes it as self-promotion. I’ve had people introduce me to speak at a conference who told the audience I was their personal friend – but the first time I met them was just 5 minutes earlier.

I’m in charge: See “I’m authentic.” The bottom line is that if you have to remind everyone you’re the boss, then you’re not the boss. I once worked with a producer who used every production meeting to remind us that he was in charge. He used it to defend his bad choices, and stifle debate and criticism. If you’re the leader, great. But be the leader and you won’t constantly have to remind everyone.

Let’s say that again: If you’re the leader, be the leader, and you won’t constantly have to remind everyone. Each of the phrases above undermine your leadership, so the best thing you can do is to never say them again…

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  1. I love this Phil! Short, succinct and to the point! And spot on! At 68 and having been in the ministry over 50 years it is easy for me to pull the “I’ve been doing this…” card. I have learned that while that may garner some ear, it certainly doesn’t win any friends nor does it influence people. 🙂 I’ll be printing this one and reading it again.

    1. Thanks Bill. Yes – the “I’ve been doing this….” card is so easy – especially when we’re surrounded by less experienced people who’s ideas we know won’t work. But the pain is worth it…. 🙂

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