The Leader’s Most Powerful Influence

As a leader your use of words is by far the most influential tool you have to impact those you lead. Your words define the culture of the organization. The question is not whether your organization has a culture, but what kind of culture you have created and continue to build?

Let us look at some ways in which your words help create the culture of your organization.

Respect and value for every person: If people are treated with respect and are valued by you as their leader that is what will eventually become part of the culture of the organization. Words such as, please, thank you, you are welcome, I appreciate what you do around here, and how are you doing, if used frequently by you, the leader, will eventually be modelled by your followers. In the same way if you tolerate or engage in disrespect and devaluing of others that is what will take hold in your organization.

Here is the reality; more people are hurt by words that are said to them, than by actions done against them. Why is that? Because words have power and if we as leaders are not careful, we can use that power to breakdown rather than to build up those we lead.

Trust: Trust in your organization is determined largely by how trusting you are with those you lead. If you are consistently second guessing or do not think people can get things done without being micromanaged then the trust level will be very low. And a lot of that mistrust is created by the way you speak to your followers.

Another way you build trust is to be a leader who keeps your word. Follow through on promises.

To build trust takes time and vulnerability. You have to be willing to be vulnerable with those you lead for them to start trusting you. When you admit you are wrong, made a mistake and take responsibility for your actions, you saying I am as human as you. And when people see our vulnerability, they feel they can trust us because we understand what it means to be human. Too many leaders come across as having it all together, with the result that the people they lead cannot identify with them.

Giving and receiving feedback: This sets the tone for how open your followers are going to be with you and each other when it comes to giving honest feedback on issues in the organization. If you are the kind of leader who is always right and never open to correction by or suggestions from your followers, then be assured that this will be reflected throughout the organization. On the other hand when you invite those you lead to give you feedback, openness and honesty will be encouraged throughout the organization. How often do you say – and really mean – things such as the following?

  • “I am open to hear what you have to say.”
  • “I am open to some guidance here.”
  • “Does anyone have some ideas to make this better or a better idea altogether?”

Unity and Team Spirit: Millions are spent annually to develop and create unity and team spirit in organizations. Too often the training is short lived because leadership, while claiming to want unity and team spirit, use other words which indicate otherwise. Using words such as you, them, they and you people to refer to those you lead, or me and mine, do not convey unity or team spirit. You must be intentional in using collective words such as, us, we and ours for your followers to feel they are part of the team. Some leaders are good at using collective pronouns when talking about success but revert to you, them and you people when dealing with failures and challenges. Greater unity and team spirit are facilitated by well-chosen words.

As you reflect on how you interact with those you lead, what kind of a culture do you think your words and actions are creating? Is it the kind of culture described above? If not, what can you start doing today to begin creating the kind of culture mentioned in this blog?

If you would like help in achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.