Leaders, your words shape the world around you. They matter. Your tone matters.

Leadership and the Power of Words

We are immersed in words every day by email and texts, phone calls, the media, and meetings in-person or on various technology platforms. We are “communicating-beings,” and our words have an impact, whether they make a ripple or a wave. They make a difference.

We cannot control the receiver of those words, only ourselves. So we need to be choosing our words wisely and thinking about the message we wish others to hear, remember and feel. We even need to think about the words we say to ourselves.

Words have power, and some of those words will remain with us for a lifetime. They can inspire us to achieve great things and overcome doubt, or they may make us question our own worth or abilities. They will lift up or tear down. Bring joy or sadness. Unite us or divide us. Challenge and enlighten us or bring us shame and confusion.

As leaders, our words have influence each day as we engage with others. Will you use those words to build up and achieve results or tear down and intimidate? Will your words create trust and a vision for the best or fear, anxiety, doubt, and insecurity?

Never has there been a time when the words people speak come back to haunt them in such fury and immediacy. Words barely have time to leave someone’s mouth before they are dissected and either embraced or vilified and forever recorded. Never have the words of each of us had so much visibility and power to influence.

What can we do with all those words and their power? Here are two ideas:

For the words we say ─ Practice Mindfulness. It’s more than the classic ”think before your speak.”  It’s going deeper with your words and connecting with the individuals in your audience. It’s being hyper-aware of the impact your words, and the tone you say those words, will have on each of them. Think of how you want your words to be remembered. Words are alive. Treat them with care.

For the words that come at us each day ─ Filter! This is self-protection. Many words pass right through us, and we never remember them ─ but others stick. We have the ability to filter through all the noise and garbage and find the good and productive messages that will serve us well.  We are subjected to truth and a “bajillion” opinions. Words – they’re everywhere – and some matter, and some are white noise, empty – even hurtful, incendiary, angry, false. It may not be easy, but give yourself permission to filter OUT.

We are sayers and receivers of words. Use that power wisely. Be kind to yourself and others.

I’ll leave you with this ancient Native American story: it is the tale of two wolves. It reflects the conflicts that go on within each of us and serves as a reminder that from our mindset emerge our words and actions ─ and we have the power within us to choose wisely.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

 He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”