Things successful leaders avoid saying (Part 1)

posted in: Communication 5

today’s blog, take one:

Yesterday, while reading a very insightful blog post, two things were striking:

1) The post had very valuable ideas for all of us who teach and lead.

2) The writer of the blog consistently used his own successes to make his points, and used the words “me”, “myself”, and “I” quite liberally.

Using those words – AND using himself as the best example of the practices he was promoting – was quite distracting from the content.  He damaged his credibility with all the self-reference and bragging.


today’s blog, take two:

Yesterday, I read a blog with some pretty valuable content.  I liked what I read, but I was quite put off the tone; the writer kept using his own success as examples, and it became very “braggy” after a time.  This bugged me, and made me take him less seriously.  I hope I don’t write like that, myself.


It was easier to write the second version, above.  But is it possible that the first version sits better with the reader?  How often have you been distracted by great content because the speaker/writer clearly thinks quite highly of himself/herself?

Taking it further, what about a manager, teacher, or coach who is constantly starting thoughts with “I think…”, “I know…”, or the dreaded “I need you to…”?  On a subconscious – or even conscious – level, we begin to notice, and their credibility is damaged in our eyes.

Successful leaders consistently find ways to avoid “me, myself, and I” in their communications; this keeps the focus on others.  A nice exception; the use of personal failures to make points.  Self-deprecation is a nice way to keep from becoming too intimidating.  But that’s almost a whole other topic…

Having said that, I wince a little bit as I re-read an earlier post on this blog about using the words “around here.”  Whoops.  Ah, well, hopefully, on balance, I don’t come off as too full of myself.  😉

When you keep the focus on others, not yourself, good things happen.

What do you think?

5 Responses

  1. Mitchell J Laurren-Ring
    | Reply

    I always try to use “we” or “us” both when giving credit and when outlining tasks.

  2. Dane Barner
    | Reply

    I think that some leaders, the ineffectual ones, feel that when they highlight their successes it proves they should be the leader. In fact, the leader’s first job should be to empower the one’s they lead. Dupree says,”leader’s first job is to define reality.” The reality effective leaders create is one of mutual interest and support. You can do a lot from there.

  3. Alan Feirer
    | Reply

    My favorite Max DePree quote:
    “Leadership is serious meddling in other people’s lives.”

    “We” and “us” are great when building that culture of unity and keeping people from being put on the spot. We have to be careful that it doesn’t sound patronizing or passive-agressive, though, don’t we? 🙂

  4. Michael Albarracin
    | Reply

    There seems to be a conundrum when using third-person versus first-person language. A history teacher placed an emphasis on using first-person language to promote ownership of one’s ideas. In another class, that teacher emphasized using third-person language in order to de-personalize the conversation and project a sense of inclusion. Who is correct on this matter? It appears reading the audience and how they react to certain language would dictate which is appropriate to use.

  5. Alan Feirer
    | Reply

    The “correctness” comes in the situation.

    When looking at things from a servant leadership perspective, focus is on the people being led/served. A common practice of “people in charge” tends to be an overuse of first person language. While it can never be eliminated, avoiding its use AND being conscious of your tendency to use it can be very helpful in putting the focus where it belongs.

    Thanks for engaging and challenging!

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