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What does it mean to be an Effective Leader? 

It seems strange that in a world saturated with highly exacerbated faculties of self-expression, we are often oblivious to the importance and effect of speech. In light of this thought, this article will offer a semantic deconstruction of leadership whilst also suggesting how to display leadership through effective communication.  

The global pandemic we are currently living through has allowed social media to paradoxically amplify our voices. We have been given time to reflect, consider and deliver.  

Notably, in the context of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the US Police, there has been an international outcry in the name of black lives as well as a (hopefully) universal search for self-improvement and greater understanding.   

This has drawn attention to modes of expression and efficacy as regards communication. Notably, are we able to relay our thoughts to others precisely and efficiently? Are we able to do this coherently and appropriately? Can we effectively and responsibly help and educate others verbally? 

As mentioned initially, it could be argued that we do not pay enough attention to our language. This is of particular note in positions of leadership. Naturally, this is understandable to an extent, given that organic speech in a natural conversation can be impulsive; which is to say that it is not always fully meditated. This can only be expected as human interactions are for the most part brief. However, it is exactly this fleeting nature of exchange and expression that is of primordial importance and focus in the sphere of leadership.

First Impressions 

The first ten seconds of an initial meeting are said to heavily impact our perceptions of others.  Therefore, it follows deductively that our short, sharp encounters with people in positions of leadership are also heavily concentrated. By virtue of the nature of the workplace, such engagements have the power to radically affect our relationships with authority figures, more so now than ever given the shift from working centrally to remote working from home.   

The new Zoom Era has ushered in a realm of communication that is void for the most part of any body language (which usually dictates much of what you are ‘saying’ in regular conversation). This has only served to amplify our voices all the more.  It is precisely for this reason that the importance of language must be considered, especially with regard to leadership.  

Here are two nuanced verbal modes that illustrate language's power for those in positions of authority. 

The Imperative

The Imperative is a command form.   

In Layman’s terms, this means ordering someone else to do something. Here are some examples: 

‘Go there!’ 

‘Do this!’ 

‘Finish before you go!’ 

This verbal mode implicitly suggests delegation whilst also perpetuating hierarchical notions. 

The Jussive Subjunctive Mode 

Similar to the Imperative, the Jussive is a form of expressing a command. However, subtle nuances differentiate this model. Here are some examples: 

‘Let’s do this!’ 

‘Let’s work through this together’  

‘Let him help’ 

In contrast to the Imperative, this mood has implications of unity and collaboration whilst also not suggesting a hierarchy. 

Asking or Commanding? 

In semantic fields, ‘commanding’ is the technical term for asking someone to do something.  

However, in modern professional environments, there is a fine line between asking and commanding. There is clear value and skill in being able to differentiate between the two; an element that is key to effective communication and therefore leadership.

Good leadership is a willingness to engage in work with teammates - to work through tasks with colleagues as opposed to simple delegation. This demonstrates cohesion and collegiality, which will not only earn respect from teammates but foster an encouraging, collective environment within the framework of a team.  Therefore, we cannot neglect the importance of our verbal expression when it comes to leadership. This is the primary signal that transmits support and encouragement, both of which are  core elements of effective leadership.  

Often, and increasingly in today’s world, our voices are our sole representative. For this reason, in positions of leadership, we need to apply minimal, marginal adjustments which will yield massive benefits. This can be done by refining simple details such as our language. 

Ultimately, language and thought are intrinsically linked. It is difficult to distinguish between the two, especially in natural conversation. This means that we need to focus on our thought processes and maybe think a bit more before we speak, as these verbal subtleties can have large impacts. Not only leaders, but all members of a team in any environment, whether personal or professional, should reflect on their language and evaluate –  are we doing everything they can to foster a true team spirit?  

Our speech can be very powerful, and as a result, we have a responsibility to be prudent with what we say. A little can go a very long way.