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Words Matter by Dena Hurst, Ph.D and Ray Jorgensen, Ph.

D, an excerpt from their book, Oracle of the Obvious: Secrets to Common Sense Leadership Because they are so powerful, words must be chosen carefully. Words are much more than letters strung together. They are the means by which we convey our thoughts to one another. Words touch all of our senses. They have a rhythm we can feel and hear. They evoke pictures in our minds. They help us recall memories, sights and smells and experiences. Like most other disciplines, leadership has its own language and to communicate as a leader is to speak in that language. Much of the traditional language of leadership has relied on metaphors from sports or the military. Motivational speeches are a way to “rally the troops,” making a good sale is “hitting a home run.” These metaphors call up for us very specific mental images, whether we are conscious of them or not. And these images create a certain world view, one that reinforces the industrial-military mindset. The new edge of leadership seeks to create a different world view, one that achieves results through cooperation and caring. And to speak the new language of leadership means choosing words that reflect a connection to other people and to the earth—organic words and metaphors rather than mechanistic ones. For example, the new language of leadership uses words like “grow” rather than ”build” and would compare team development to cultivating a garden rather than winning a game.This organic language changes our mental images, which, in turn, changes our world view to one of connectedness.
 

A foundation of leading through conversation is practicing having disciplined conversations. We invite you to practice several times each of the 5 Learning Conversation Guidelines individually and reflect on the responses you receive from others. Remember, though the LCGs can be used to ground meetings and conversations they are deeply in your own personal practice as a leader. • Listen for Understanding: How did it feel when you listened deeply to others? What responses to your listening did you notice in others?

• Speak from the Heart: How did it feel to be forthcoming in your thinking? What responses did you receive for speaking from your heart? • Suspend Certainty: How did it feel to put aside the need to be right? What responses did you notice from others? • Hold Space for Difference: How did it feel to allow diversity into conversations? What responses did you notice in others as space for difference was maintained? • Slow the Conversation: How did it feel to slow the pace of your conversations? What responses did you receive from others taking part in those conversations? How will you use the LCGs to enhance your leadership practice?