The Weight of a Leader's Words

As a leader, your words have more weight than you think. On this episode of the Church Leadership Podcast, John and Adam discuss the impact of a leaders words and best practices for communicating wisely. For show notes and downloadable resources visit:

Adam Tarnow, John McGeeAug 31, 2020

In This Series (52)
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Dealing with Discouragement and Distance
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How You Should Measure Success
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In This Series (124)

In church leadership, many of us are tempted to believe that our words lack the ability to impact in people's lives. In reality, the exact opposite is true. If you are in any position of authority or leadership, your words carry weight. God gifts you with influence and opportunities to steward it for the good of others. When used rightly, your words have the power to shape culture, speak truth, and inspire your team. When used irresponsibly, your words have the power to stir division, or cause serious hurt and damage. Your words can either build up, or they can tear down (Ephesians 4:29). This is why, when leaders forget their words have weight, there are always negative consequences or missed opportunities.

Generally speaking, when considering and choosing your words, you should keep three categories in mind:
1. Encouragement
2. Feedback
3. Intent

As a leader, your encouragements have a great deal more impact than when you were not a leader. So, when encouraging others, especially those you are leading, be sure to use encouragement wisely, regularly, and generously. Know that it will stick with people. We all treasure and easily remember times when we are encouraged by leadership. Consider writing encouraging notes and letters to your team. Technology also makes encouragement so easy. Even sending a simple text encouraging someone on a job well done can be incredibly impactful.

Remember, sometimes the life that will be most impacted by your leadership will be your own. As you encourage others, keep your eye out for the ways that your team encouraged you and builds you up.

As a leader, understand that your feedback also carries weight. Any critique or criticism, while perhaps not appearing to in the moment, can have a lasting impact and lead to hurt down the line. If you are reckless or harsh with your words, you may forget the exchange instantly, but others may remember those words for years.

It is important to note there are three types of feedback leaders should seek to give:
1. Appreciation - Appreciation has a lot of overlap with encouragement. Any feedback should make sure to communicate what went well or was successful.
2. Coaching - Coaching is showing someone how they can improve or get better at whatever they were attempting.
3. Evaluation - Evaluation, much like a job review, is reminding someone how they are currently fitting into the workplace or organization. This is where you would comment on career goals or trajectories.

For example, when someone is asking for feedback, it is important to clarify what kind of feedback they are looking for. If someone is wanting appreciation, and you only ever give them evaluation or coaching, it can feel like your feedback misses the mark.

As a leader, be careful and measured with all of your feedback. Try to pause, think through your answers, and proceed with candor and gentleness. Lastly, avoid giving feedback when you are angry or upset.

As leaders, it is important to telegraph intent as often as possible. Every you lead will be listening to your words, but also listening for the intent behind them. They are wanting to know if you are for them or against them, if you are wanting them to succeed or hoping they fail. Forcing clarity, and communicating intent can help remove ambiguity from your leadership. Doing so is your responsibility.

If you are not completely convinced of an argument or are not completely sure about something, simply say so. Let people know when you are being hyperbolic. If you are tired or grumpy, simply communicate that so your intent is not confused. Avoid being sarcastic or careless with your words, as those are situations when intent is most often misinterpreted.

Recommended Resources
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

About 'Church Leadership Podcast'

A conversation with church leaders, for church leaders. Each episode focuses on issues and topics relevant to church leaders across the country and around the world.