Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Cleombrotus Ordered into Banishment by Leonidas II, King of Sparta by Benjamin West, 1768 (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

As a leader, the way you communicate is everything. Words matter.

The words you choose will be scrutinized and analyzed, probably to a degree that makes you uncomfortable. Which means you need to be careful not only about what you say but about how you say it.

Everything communicates, from an arched eyebrow to the things you don't say. And your communication builds the culture of your organization. 

Perhaps you prefer to rule from the top down, and have developed a culture of fear.

If so, the two most powerful words you can say might be "You're fired."

In that kind of culture, those aren't words to fear, though; they're more than likely a welcome release from an unjust imprisonment. You've done your people a favor by freeing them of the shackles of an unhealthy relationship.

More likely, your team holds you in high regard, because you've taken the time to build a culture of mutual respect and kindness. Of vulnerability and humility.

And in that case, the two most powerful words can you can say are this:

"I'm sorry."

An apology is one of the most humbling statements a leader can make. It's an action that shows their humanity, and if said with sincerity, an apology conveys two important concepts:

Regret and empathy.

Apology = Regret + Empathy

When someone—particularly a leader—shows regret, they show that they can admit when they were wrong. They know they don't have all of the answers, or at least that they don't have to be right all of the time.

By demonstrating empathy, a leader shows that they know how to think of people other than themselves. They can put others (employees, customers, shareholders, etc.) first. They're servant leaders.

 An apology is a simple action. It's part of a formula that builds trust within and among stakeholders who matter.