Another 3 Words That Leaders Should Avoid 

Last week, I wrote a post on three words that leaders should never say. Those were impossible, fault, and just. Well, there are three more.  

The words ‘always’, ‘never’ and ‘but’ are often referred to as absolute or limiting words in the context of leadership and communication. While they are not inherently bad words (in other contexts – not when you are having courageous leadership conversations or idea generation sessions), their frequent use can have negative implications for effective leadership and communication.  

Here’s why leaders should be cautious about using these words: 

1. Always 

Being global causes overgeneralisation: Using “always” implies that a situation or behaviour is constant and unchanging. This can lead to overgeneralisation and oversimplification of complex issues. 

That can lead to unwarranted certainty: Leaders should acknowledge the dynamic and evolving nature of problems and solutions. Using “always” can make leaders appear overly certain when situations are often nuanced and multifaceted. 

2. Never 

The word “never” conveys rigid thinking: Similar to “always,” “never” suggests a complete absence of a particular behaviour or outcome. This can promote rigid thinking, which may not be adaptable to changing circumstances or different perspectives. 

Which can lead to missed opportunities: A leader who says, “We can never do that,” may inadvertently close the door to creative solutions and missed opportunities. 

3. But 

This word is a conjunction of contradiction: “But” is often used to introduce a contrasting or contradictory statement. This can be seen as negating or dismissing what was said before the “but.” In other words, whatever comes before the word but… is a mistruth (or a lie at some level). 

“But” implies a negative tone: Using “but” can have a negative impact on interpersonal relationships and teamwork, as it may come across as dismissive or argumentative. 

Leaders should avoid these words or use them with caution because: 

They are not conducive to effective communication: Effective leaders strive to communicate clearly and foster open dialogue. Absolute words can hinder productive conversations by shutting down possibilities and creating resistance. 

They do not promote flexibility and adaptability: Leaders need to adapt to changing circumstances, be open to new ideas, and encourage innovation. Absolute language can impede flexibility and creative problem solving. 

They really do impact team morale: Using absolute words can demotivate team members by making them feel that their contributions are not valued or that their input is being ignored. 

Instead, leaders should use more open and inclusive language, such as “sometimes,” “often,” “however,” or “and.” This promotes a culture of collaboration, flexibility, and open-mindedness, which are important qualities for effective leadership. It’s essential to be mindful of language choices and their potential impact on the team’s dynamics and outcomes. 

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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