6 Words Leaders Should Use More Often

There are six powerful words which are rarely used in the corporate world.

They are:

1. Love

2. Courage

3. Joy

4. Fun

5. Vulnerability

6. I’m sorry.

Let’s start with love.

Before you accuse me of going all ‘touchy-feely’, or snigger at the thought of love and ‘corporate’ being used in the same sentence, humour me. I’m not talking about romantic love, but love at a broader, conceptual level.  What about the following for starters:

Ask your direct reports, “what do you LOVE doing? What completely lights your fire?”

Demonstrate variations of love in the way you interact with others at work – kindness is a perfect example of ‘love’ in action.

So is connection. Warmth. Compassion. So is just listening (without judgement or problem solving) to a colleague who is stressed and at breaking point, instead of scurrying down the corridor so you don’t have to deal with their (and your own) uncomfortable feelings around fear or sadness or not coping or whatever.


What are the courageous conversations you are not having right now, which need to be had?

What would you do right now if you were not afraid?

Where can you be more courageous as a leader? In your life?


While interviewing Shane Anselmi, MD of Overland Footwear, he said, “there was not much joy about the place” and that really struck me.  Joy brings engagement, passion and happiness. And there’s a squillion research results which demonstrate the link between these things and organisational performance.

How can you bring more joy into your workplace?

I love this quote which really nails the power of joy in our work:

“When our eyes see our hands doing the work of our hearts, the circle of creation is completed inside us, the doors of our souls fly open and love steps forth to heal everything in sight.”  – Michael Bridge.


When was the last time you heard raucous, belly howling, fall off your chair laughter at your workplace? If the answer is “I can’t remember”, there’s an opportunity to bring more fun into your professional environment.

One way to start is by taking the mickey out of yourself a bit. As a leader, self-deprecating humour is always a safe bet. Another idea is to do something just a tad silly.  Dance walking down the hallway to your next meeting is for the more courageous amongst you, for starters.

In case you don’t know what dance walking is, check this out…


Karl E Weick (2001) articulated it powerfully when he said, “when bewildered people ask, “what’s the story?”, leaders can answer this by saying, “I don’t know what the story is, but let’s find out…”

Give up your all powerful, all knowing archetype of the leader. Authentic leaders are OK with saying “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure” and “I stuffed up, I made a mistake”. Effective leaders are not afraid to demonstrate vulnerability in this way.

I’m sorry.

What ever happened to a good old fashion apology? Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is too often replaced with spin and half-truths. It’s as if admitting we were in the wrong, conveys incompetency or weakness.

But the irony is that saying ‘I’m sorry’ illustrates we are human AND that we take full responsibility for our actions. This also shows people honesty, which is so integral to building strong relationships.

If the above six words are rarely spoken or demonstrated in your workplace, I dare you to be courageous. Model these concepts. Weave these evocative words into your conversations.  Demonstrate yourself what you want to see in others.

And – I’d love to hear how you get on.

Do you have any words to add to this list? Please leave your comments in the space provided below.


  1. Clint on June 18, 2014 at 1:11 am

    The word more managers should use more often is “Thank you”. Technically it’s two words… maybe it needs a hyphen.

    • The Leader's Digest on June 18, 2014 at 2:49 am

      I love it! Yes – “thank you” are unfortunately two rare words around the corridors…thanks for commenting Clint.

  2. paradigms of leadership on June 10, 2014 at 5:33 am

    Another great blog Suzi! The leader’s courage to ‘let go’ is often the first step on a difficult but very rewarding journey.

  3. The Leader's Digest on June 10, 2014 at 6:11 am

    Yes! So many of my clients admit to struggling with letting go, yet find that when they do, that they AND their team benefit.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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