Some Leadership Language

By Chris Chittenden

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

… Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 - 1969) US President & military leader

In our last edition, we looked at the idea of a “Leadership Vision” – one that is realisable and connects others to a future. This month we would like to further explore what it is to lead others.

The American social researcher and business writer John Naisbitt has said that “The new leader is a facilitator, not an order giver”. Although this speaks to some aspects of the role of a leader, it does not go far enough. To facilitate means to “help the progress of” or “to make easy or less difficult” yet this does not speak of where the progress will lead. The creation of this direction is a fundamental aspect of leadership. However there is an art to doing this without simply appearing an order giver.

One way to look at this is through the NLP idea of “pacing and leading”. From a leadership perspective, pacing can be seen as process of building rapport and establishing the leader as part of the group. For the leader, it is characterised by “we” language and an inclusive style. This is very much the facilitative style where the leader wants to draw on the group to create synergies and a sense of shared experience and understanding. In this style, the leader is building connection and it can be visualised as walking with the group. However, when the leader steps into leading, the picture becomes one of the leader moving in front of the group, but not so far as to lose connection. It is at these times that the leader changes to “I” language and uses their authority to establish direction.

As such, this becomes a subtle dance where the leader paces and leads, paces and leads and so on to move the group in a certain direction whilst maintaining the group’s connection and making the most use of their talent.

If you lead a group, you might like to reflect on how much time you spend facilitating and leading. Is there a balance? How aware are you of the subtle shifts? How do people respond to your pacing and leading? The more conscious you are of these subtleties the more adept will be your leadership.

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© 2008 Chris Chittenden