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15 Phrases Effective Leaders Will Never Say

15 Phrases Effective Leaders Will Never Say

Being a leader is all about guiding people toward your vision using a consistent balance of communication, action, and encouragement. We can influence change through our actions. Leaders make change happen. What used to work as a leader—spouting out demands, drafting huge outlines for your team to follow, and using negative reinforcement—doesn’t work as well anymore. An effective leader needs to connect with the people they lead. Creating a shift in the way you communicate will help you attract a tribe that will follow you with dedicated loyalty.

Here are 15 phrases that you will never catch an effective leader saying.

1. “I can’t.”

This is perhaps one of the most detrimental phrases for not only leaders, but everyone else, too. Saying “I can’t” limits your action to doing only the things that you believe you can. If you don’t believe in yourself, how will others believe in your vision and themselves? Instead, a better question is “I will” followed by “How?” These two phrases inspire creativity and innovation, two characteristics apparent in all leaders.

2. “I don’t care.”

Saying “I don’t care,” basically says that you don’t have an opinion. Although it may often be said in disregard of a particular idea, it still communicates a lack of regard and a lack of drive. Good leaders say “I’m interested. I care.” It shows they are driven and passionate about executing their vision. They realize that caring for each unit of their organization, from the smallest member to the largest change, is important.

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3. “I’m in charge.”

If you want people to resent you from day one, say this phrase. The need to tell people that you’re in charge indicates that you’re not actually in charge. This phrase makes the difference between managers and leaders. Managers often use this phrase to to bark orders from a safe place to a submissive team that works from fear. Leaders realize that the strength of their vision and effectiveness of their leadership is rooted in the drive and passion of their tribe. By simply not saying this phrase, leaders empower their team to contribute to their vision. And by doing so, they open themselves to innovation. Leaders establish respect and build followers through consistent action, not fearful words.

4. “You don’t understand.”

Telling someone that they don’t understand shuts them down before even making an effort to help them understand. Great leaders realize that if there is misunderstanding or if their vision is unclear to the members of their tribe, then it is their responsibility to help their team understand. “Check this out!” or “How can I help you?” are effective phrases leaders use to open up a dialogue to enable members to figure out what they are trying to execute or convey.

5. “Can I?”

Waiting for permission to change something is the quickest way to keep it the same. Followers ask permission before changing a system. Leaders only make the changes they believe in. The ruthless pursuit of the most efficient and effective way makes a great leader. The best leaders don’t wait for permission before making change. They create change through action and ask for forgiveness later.

6. “It’s impossible.”

Saying this phrase in response to an idea or action shuts down any possibility of it ever happening. Faith and confidence go hand-in-hand with leadership. Effective leaders instead ask the question: “How can we ____?” These phrases create inspiration and motivation, two key components of a good leader. It is absolutely essential for a leader to believe. Leaders of an organization—the ones who truly believe in what they are a part of—are confident in their beliefs.

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7. “Let’s wait” or “It’s not time.”

No leader ever became great by waiting for the perfect moment to execute a project or idea. The best leaders realize that the timing will never be perfect. “Let’s do it now” and “We can work it out” are ways that great leaders execute ideas and change in an organic way, adapting to the obstacles of their execution as they unfold. Adapting to change during this execution also supplies new strategies for dealing with change.

8. “People won’t like me.”

Worrying about whether people will like you or not will ensure that you stay the same and only make small ripples in the ocean of an organization. Great leaders create huge waves and build their following by changing the status quo. Society thrives on habitual routine and most people do not like change. The best leaders will have a healthy awareness that not everyone will like them, and that they cannot please nor make everyone happy. Being confident in their beliefs and vision allows them to maintain this mindset.

9. “It’s always been done this way.”

People who use this phrase usually maintain a calm cruise through their daily lives. While there’s nothing wrong with this mindset, a great leader will realize that innovation is absolutely necessary in order for people to believe in their vision and follow them. “What if?” is a question that great leaders ask themselves daily when confronted with a system that they believe could be executed more effectively. Just because a system worked in the past doesn’t mean it still works today. Leaders understand that, and are constantly in search of ways to improve upon systems using innovation and strategy.

10. “I did it.”

Any statements that use “I” when referring to accomplishments of your organization or team is never going to establish leadership. By using “I” statements, individuals place themselves on a pedestal of selfish pride. Effective leaders take a position of humble confidence in their role and lavish pride for their team. A successful leader realizes that she is only as good as her group. By saying “We did it!” or even “Y’all did it!” and lifting others up above themselves, leaders empower their tribe members to continually strive for greater success.

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11. “I know enough.”

This statement indicates that an individual has learned everything there is to know. It is a surefire way to get passed by others in the quest to be the best. Since leaders strive for the best, you’ll always hear them asking the question “Why?” or “How?” Asking the right questions it essential for any leader to become great.

12. “It’s too difficult.”

This phrase indicates a challenge. The difference between a leader and a follower is that followers often shrink away from challenges while leaders see them as opportunities. Leaders pave the way through challenges and obstacles by saying “Let’s do it” or “We can”. It takes a lot of creativity to overcome obstacles. It also takes a lot of faith. Leaders have both of these characteristics, and they’ve developed them by plowing through the obstacles and boundaries that seemed too difficult to their followers.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”

—Henry Ford

13. “It’s not personal; it’s business.”

The problem with this phrase is that it’s always personal to the person that you say it to. Where people are involved, there’s always a relationship at stake. And great leaders realize that the relationship they have with their members is one of the most important aspects of creating a successful team that will carry out their vision and goals. If an individual can’t engage their team on a tangible, relational level (instead of like a machine), their tribe is destined to resent their leader, or they just won’t care enough to perform to their top potential.

14. “I don’t have time.”

People that say “I don’t have time” have not prioritized or managed their schedule effectively to invest in the things that really matter. This phrase indicates an insulated mindset that doesn’t have schedule flexibility or relational connection with others. But having the ability to connect with your team, family, or organization is what makes an effective leader. Saying “Let’s find a time” or “I can make time for you” are two of the most supportive phrases that engage and connect leaders to their team, and in turn establish their follower’s worth.

15. “It’s perfect!” or “They’ll be perfect.”

Perfection is an illusion. And the people that wait for the perfect prototype, perfect time, or perfect people, usually don’t make much change. These people are often the most unaware of their imperfections, which makes them liable to judgement of others’ imperfections because they cannot see their own. Leaders believe in beginning something, and reinventing it until it works. They will say “It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.” They realize that imperfection and the discovery of flaws (personal and product) is all part of the creative process to establish something worth standing behind.

“The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future and go there. People will follow.”

—Seth Godin.

Featured photo credit: Brooklyn Morgan via unsplash.com

More by this author

Chris Talambas

Chris is a writer and professional physical therapist.

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Last Updated on November 5, 2020

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Insecurity about doing things incorrectly causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success.

Fear is part of human nature. As an entrepreneur, I faced this same fear. My ego and identity became intertwined with my work, and when things didn’t go as planned, I completely shut down. I overcame this unhealthy relationship with fear, and I believe that you can, too.

Together we’ll examine how you can use failure to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. We’ll also look at how to overcome fear of failure so that you can enjoy success in your work and life.

What Is Fear of Failure?

If you are afraid of failure, it will cause you to avoid potentially harmful situations.

Fear of failure keeps you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress, and may lead you to go against your morals.

What causes a fear of failure? Here are the main reasons why fear of failing exists:

Patterns From Childhood

Hyper-critical adults cause children to internalize damaging mindsets.[1] They establish ultimatums and fear-based rules. This causes children to feel the constant need to ask for permission and reassurance. They carry this need for validation into adulthood.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is often at the root of a fear of failure.[2] For perfectionists, failure is so terrible and humiliating that they don’t try. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes terrifying.

Over-Personalization

The ego may lead us to over-identify with failures. It’s hard to look beyond failure at things like the quality of the effort, extenuating circumstances, or growth opportunities.[3]

False Self-Confidence

People with true confidence know they won’t always succeed. A person with fragile self-confidence avoids risks. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.[4]

How the Fear of Failure Holds You Back

Unhealthy Organization Culture

Too many organizations today have cultures of perfection: a set of organizational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable. Only pure, untainted success will do.

Imagine the stress and terror in an organization like that. The constant covering up of the smallest blemishes. The wild finger-pointing as everyone tries to shift the blame for the inevitable messes onto someone else. The lying, cheating, falsification of data, and hiding of problems—until they become crises that defy being hidden any longer.

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Miss out on Valuable Opportunities

If some people fail to reach a complete answer because of the lure of some early success, many more fail because of their ego-driven commitment to what worked in the past. You often see this with senior people, especially those who made their names by introducing some critical change years ago.

They shy away from further innovation, afraid that this time they might fail, diminishing the luster they try to keep around their names from past triumph.

Besides, they reason, the success of something new might even prove that those achievements they made in the past weren’t so great after all. Why take the risk when you can hang on to your reputation by doing nothing?

Such people are so deeply invested in their egos and the glories of their past that they prefer to set aside opportunities for future glory rather than risk even the possibility of failure.

High Achievers Become Losers

Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes turns it into a problem. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure that it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major obstacle.

Achievement is a powerful value for many successful people. They’ve built their lives on it. They achieve at everything they do: school, college, sports, the arts, hobbies, work. Each fresh achievement adds to the power of the value in their lives.

Gradually, failure becomes unthinkable. Maybe they’ve never failed yet in anything that they’ve done, so they have no experience of rising above it. Failure becomes the supreme nightmare: a frightful horror they must avoid at any cost.

The simplest way to do this is never to take a risk, stick rigidly to what you know you can do, protect yourself, work the longest hours, double and triple check everything, and be the most conscientious and conservative person in the universe.

If constant hard work, diligence, brutal working schedules and harrying subordinates won’t ward off the possibility of failing, use every other possible means to to keep it away. Falsify numbers, hide anything negative, conceal errors, avoid customer feedback, constantly shift the blame for errors onto anyone too weak to fight back.

Loss of Creativity

Over-achievers destroy their own peace of mind and the lives of those who work for them. People too attached to “goodness” and morality become self-righteous bigots. Those whose values for building close relationships become unbalanced slide into smothering their friends and family with constant expressions of affection and demands for love in return.

Everyone likes to succeed. The problem comes when fear of failure is dominant, when you can no longer accept the inevitability of making mistakes, nor recognize the importance of trial and error in finding the most creative solution.

The more creative you are, the more errors you are going to make. Deciding to avoid the errors will destroy your creativity, too.

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Balance counts more than you think. Some tartness must season the sweetest dish. A little selfishness is valuable even in the most caring person. And a little failure is essential to preserve everyone’s perspective on success.

We hear a lot about being positive. Maybe we also need to recognize that the negative parts of our lives and experience have just as important a role to play in finding success, in work, and in life.

How to Overcome Fear of Failure (Step-by-Step)

1. Figure out Where the Fear Comes From

Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.[5] When you look at the four main causes for a fear of failure, which ones resonate with you?

Write down where you think the fear comes from, and try to understand it as an outsider.

If it helps, imagine you’re trying to help one of your best friends. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity.

Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.

2. Reframe Beliefs About Your Goal

Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include learning something new in your goal.

If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.[6]

At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.”[7] They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow.

3. Learn to Think Positive

In many cases, you believe what you tell yourself. Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave.

Our society is obsessed with success, but it’s important to recognize that even the most successful people encounter failure.

Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because they thought he lacked creativity. He went on to found an animation studio that failed. He never gave up, and now Disney is a household name.

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Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. [8]

If Disney and Jobs had believed the negative feedback, they wouldn’t have made it.

It’s up to you to notice your negative self talk and identify triggers[9]. Replace negative thoughts with positive facts about yourself and the situation. You’ll be able to create a new mental scripts that you can reach for when you feel negativity creeping in. The voice inside your head has a great effect on what you do.

How To Be A Positive Thinker: Positivity Exercises, Affirmations, & Quotes

    4. Visualize all Potential Outcomes

    Uncertainty about what will happen next is terrifying. Take time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll feel better if you’ve already had a chance to mentally prepare for what could happen.

    Fear of the unknown might keep you from taking a new job. Weigh the pros and cons, and imagine potential successes and failures in making such a life-altering decision. Knowing how things could turn out might help you get unstuck.

    5. Look at the Worst-Case Scenario

    There are times when the worst case could be absolutely devastating. In many cases, if something bad happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

    It’s important to define how bad the worst case scenario is in the grand scheme of your life. Sometimes, we give situations more power than they deserve. In most cases, a failure is not permanent.

    For example, when you start a new business, it’s bound to be a learning experience. You’ll make decisions that don’t pan out, but often that discomfort is temporary. You can change your strategy and rebound. Even in the worst case scenario, if the perceived failure led to the end of that business, it might be the launching point for something new.

    6. Have a Backup Plan

    It never hurts to have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. The old adage is solid wisdom:

    “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

    Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

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    Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could get the funds?

    There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

    7. Learn From Whatever Happens

    Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever arises.[10] Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

    “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

    Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure.

    For more tips on how to overcome fear of failure, check out the video below:

    Final Thoughts

    To overcome fear of failure, we can start by figuring out where it comes from and reframing the way we feel about failure. When failure is a chance for growth, and you’ve looked at all possible outcomes, it’s easier to overcome fear.

    Stay positive, have a backup plan, and learn from whatever happens. Your failures will be sources of education and inspiration rather than humiliation.

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas A. Edison

    Failures can be blessings in disguise. Go boldly in the direction of your dreams and long-term goals.

    More Tips for Conquering Fear

    Featured photo credit: Patrick Hendry via unsplash.com

    Reference

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