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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 March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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