5 Phrases Successful Leaders Use

There’s incredible power in language. Words don’t merely convey ideas, they can change the course of history.

The words you use as a leader matter too. Here are some simple but powerful phrases that set great leaders apart from the rest.

“We” (not “me”)

Leaders should think and communicate with inclusive language, as Coach K is fond of saying. It’s not “my” team, it’s “our” team. Shared victories only comes through shared ownership. Along the way, leaders also find a way to share the credit.

“Thank you”

Having a positive relationship with one’s boss is one of the highest drivers of employee engagement and retention. The reverse is also true. One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways leaders engage their teams is acknowledging the contribution of each person. A “thank you” can go an incredibly long way – maybe that’s why Dale Carnegie‘s #2 principle for success was, “Show honest, sincere appreciation.”

“I’m sorry”

Apologizing can be very difficult sometimes and requires self-awareness, objectivity and discipline. “I’m sorry” are important words for a leader because they are steeped in humility and the understanding that none of us are immune to human error (whether consciously or unconsciously), regardless of our position.

“Tell me more”

Great listeners are unfortunately few and far between but perhaps nothing says, “I hear you and I’m interested” more than this little phrase – especially when you mean it. Leaders understand they need the input of others in order to succeed – but ideas don’t come automatically. They must be invited and engaged.

“How can I support you?”

This is perhaps my favorite leadership phrase of all. Leaders often struggle with the time and attention both to delegate and develop key team members. This phrase solves both challenges – it keeps all the responsibility with the team member but expresses a willingness to help when and where able.

Your words will mark you as a leader because words always matter. Which phrases do you need to add to your leadership interactions? And what others might you include in a list like this?

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his new ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website  or follow him on Twitter.

Nathan Magnuson is an executive leadership consultant, speaker and author of the books Stand Out! and Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to see the exciting ways Nathan is helping organizations and teams become more effective with Leadership-in-a-Box.