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Leading Through Language


Communication expert Bart Egnal reveals why jargon is so prevalent in the workplace, and why it usually undermines those who use it, in his book, Leading Through Language.

Step by step, Egnal demonstrates how effective leaders reject fuzzy terminology in favor of the language of leadership. And, by language of leadership, he means using language that clearly and powerfully brings ideas to life for the audience.

The book has two parts. The first part examines why jargon exists and discusses its implications for leaders.The second part teaches how to use language that conveys ideas with energy, clarity, and conviction.

Egnal also explains that before you think about language you need to adopt a leader's mindset using these six principles:
  1. Begin with vision. You must define the vision as a possibility that others can embrace or aspire to fulfill.Yet, it must be concrete enough that people can grasp it as something clear and achievable.
  2. Define your own conviction. When you speak from a place of conviction, your language becomes personal, authentic, and powerful.
  3. Move from information to inspiration. The number one reason speakers fair to inspire their audiences is that they focus on information rather than ideas. Leadership is not based on transferring information; it is based on transforming people.
  4. Be courageous. You must be ready to deliver ideas that challenge your listeners to adopt new approaches.
  5. Make it an everyday process. When you think about leading in every interaction, you will not reserve the language of leadership for "command performance."
  6. Be audience-centric. You must engage your audience by showing them what's in it for them.
Finally, Egnal shares this good advice from Anna Tudela, Vice President at Goldcorp:
  • Eliminate "minimizing" modifiers that so many of us use without realizing it. These modifiers undermine your ability to project confidence.
So, avoid these modifiers:
  • Just
  • Sort of
  • A bit
  • Perhaps
  • Probably
  • I think
  • I'd guess
  • We might
  • It could
Egnal is President and Chief Executive Offer of The Humphrey Group, a global firm focused on building leadership communication skills.

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