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Leadership is Language The Hidden Power of What You Say and What You Don’t

By Andrea Seydel Book Doula, Publisher, Author and Podcast Host

Leadership is Language The Hidden Power of What You Say and What You Don’t Book Summary

You may be doing something that is inhibiting creative problem solving and escalates uncertainty and stress. Many of us don't realize that our language in the workplace plays a bigger role than we realize. In both high-pressure situations and everyday scenarios, in each meeting and email, we have the opportunity to empower our colleagues by using the right words. OUR LANGUAGE HAS INFLUENCE.

In the book Leadership is Language Marquet outlines a set of principles and tools that help leaders inspire their people to take responsibility and address challenges without waiting to be told what to do, highlighting how small changes in language can lead to dramatic changes in a team's success and happiness.

Leadership is Language drives home the idea that leadership is about people, and the author argues that leaders cannot lead effectively without an appropriately balanced interplay using words.


In this book, he talks about how he changed the way he talked to people and the words that were used and the impact they had on others. His suggestions are: 1. clearly strive to remove barriers of interaction between leaders and the led. 2. He also suggests to vastly increase curiosity and strongly encourages the leader to get their teams to think, not just do and not just react. 3. he makes it explicitly clear that a ‘rhythmic dance’ between the leader and followers’ thinking and doing cycles must be well balanced.

According to Marquet, the language can be changed in three ways: 1. from a reactive language of “Convince, Coerce, Comply and Conform” to a proactive language of “Intent and Commitment” to action 2. from a language of “Prove and Perform” to a language of “Improve and Learn” 3. from a language of Invulnerability and Certainty to a language of Vulnerability and Curiosity.

The new Leadership playbook which consists of 6 plays – based on the specific use of language, forms the core of the book. They are 1. Control the clock instead of obeying the clock 2.Collaborate instead of coercing 3. Commitment rather than compliance 4. Complete defined goals instead of continued work indefinitely 5. Improve outcomes rather than prove the ability 6. Connect with people instead of conforming to your role

In terms of leadership interactions, whether person to person, digital, handwritten, or verbal; Marquet argues that if you want to be a truly effective leader, you need to think about the words you choose to use and how you apply them. Readers are encouraged to think about leadership as the hard work of ‘taking responsibility for how our actions and words affect the lives of others’.

THE PROBLEM: Industrial Age ‘command and control’ leadership language that stifles curiosity, decision-making, and performance.These stubborn cultures of compliance and control only serve to yield distorted common sense, coercive behaviours, and fear. The Industrial Age leadership approach is out of date and ineffective,

THE SOLUTION: The author argues that if you change the way you communicate, you will positively change your workplace culture, and by changing the culture you will transform your team’s performance.

Changes in our language, allowing us to ’reinforce and rewire our thought processes in a more adaptive, learning, growth-orientated way’.

Leadership is Language makes it abundantly clear that teams need to interact and people need to share their anxieties, ideas, and opinions. This is vital since the leader needs to know whether they are making the best possible decisions after weighing up the best possible courses of action, informed by all the relevant information.

Key Take Aways

The book offers us six ‘plays’ that we can employ in order to lead effectively and enhance the performance of our teams, all of which ultimately combine to bolster morale, trust, and performance. They are summarised as:


Be able to ‘pause’ at any time to be mindful and deliberate with actions. Facilitate collaboration, broaden perspective.

TIPS: Make a pause possible, Give the pause a name like Time out, hands-off. Call a Pause. Let's get the team together and revise our thinking. Let’s hold here and take a look. What does everyone think? Pre-plan the next pause.


Consider letting the doers be the deciders, you be the decision evaluator; encourage the sharing of ideas, be vulnerable, and recognise and accept that others can contribute to thinking and understanding.

TIPS: Ask What and How questions. Vote first, then discuss. Be curious. Invite difference, not consensus. Give information, not instruction. Curious open mindset listening to all perspectives. Ask What’s behind what you are saying?


Commitment will always prevail over compliance because it unlocks discretionary effort in people. In complex, cognitive, custom teamwork ‘discretionary effort is everything’.

TIPIS: Commit to learning not just doing. What are we going to do”, but also “What are we going to learn”. Commit actions not beliefs. Chunk it small, but do it all. Align their actions not necessary to get people on board. Use the Inquisitive how questions, they sound like “How does ---- affect .....?” or “How do you see that” . “How could we start”, “How could we test that quickly


Break tasks down into sizeable chunks and complete them one by one. Celebrate successes, focus on behaviours not characteristics, focus on the journey not the destination.

TIPS: Chunk work for frequent completes. Celebrate with not for. Focus on behaviour, not characteristics. Focus on the journey, not the destination. appreciate not evaluate, observe don’t judge, prize don’t praise. Descriptive statements can start with “I see”, “I noticed”, “It looks like”.


Collaborate to get better, focus on achieving excellence in favour of avoiding errors.

TIPS: Forward not backward. Outward not inward. On the process, not the person. On achieving excellence, not avoiding errors. This is key to invoking the “get better” self. What do we want to remember about this for next time” What could we do to better serve our customers" “what improvements can we make to the process”


Demonstrate vulnerability and admit to not knowing. Care about what people think, how they feel, and their personal goals. ‘Connect is love’, trust is the outcome.

TIPS: Flatten the power gradient. Admit you don't know. Be vulnerable. Trust first. the steeper the gradient, the more difficult it is for information to flow upward. create connection. do things with people. Instead of judging, observe and describe. Instead of reinforcing authority, reduce it. Phrases like “lets look it up”, “how can we test it”, “lets run an experiment”

Additional TOPICS

Power Gradient. The hierarchical distance between people. Steep power gradients can stifle creativity, communication, share of voice, and variability.

Share of voice. The proportion of words that each person in a conversation speaks. Marquet argues that leaders should say the least in conversations, and talk last.

Variability. This can be considered in the same way that we think of diversity and cognitive diversity.

Curiosity. The desire to learn more about how other people see, what they think, or what they propose as a course of action.


IN SUMMARY: Marquet makes it feel simple, ask questions in different ways to get different answers. Be curious. He delivers a crystal clear understanding that language creates the environment where teams are able to assert

ively state their queries, concerns, problems, and anxieties — and that they can perform highly as an outcome.

Firstly, how can you apply what you've learned from this book?

Secondly, how can I use what I’ve learned from this book to better support my life?

Book Club Details

Host Andrea Seydel

Mind Map App Used

MindMeister: Online Mind Mapping and Brainstorming (link)

Live Life Happy Book Club Podcast

‎Live Life Happy- Andrea Seydel on Apple Podcasts (link)


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