Language of Leadership

The Big J-O-B…

My first degree is in Computer Science, yes I speak geek, just not as often as I used to.  I have not looked for a programming job in ten years, but there are always well meaning people in my world who believe the best way to help me is to help me find a well paying programming J-O-B, yes mom I am speaking to you.  In the end this always turns into a C-I-R-C-U-S.

Thinking that a programmer can program in any language is their first mistake.  Granted my education gave me a basis in structure, syntax, and root knowledge that helps me pick up languages easier than most.  However, at the end of the day just like a multi-lingual person there is one language I will always feel the most comfortable in.

When starting out a new programming language it is almost a rite of passage to first discover how to output “Hello World”.  There are many languages that I can write “Hello World” in, but that does mean I am proficient enough to contribute at the level of a master in that language.

So I continue to thank those that make the time to send me job postings, and genuinely appreciate their help and concern for my success.  In the end though it started me thinking about the language of leadership.


If you Google the etymology of the word “Inspire” this is what you will find:

Middle English enspire, from Old French inspirer, from Latin inspirare ‘breathe or blow into,’ from in- ‘into’ + spirare ‘breathe.’ The word was originally used of a divine or supernatural being, in the sense ‘impart a truth or idea to someone.

What is breathe, but life.  So to inspire a leader must blow life into an idea.

Seems easy, until you consider that by definition a leader would be inspiring a team and no matter the size of that team they all speak their own language of motivation.

What an impossible task it now seems to be.  To inspire a team of fifty people all speaking their own language and the leader needs to be able to speak much more than “Hello World” in order to motivate action from that team.

The Dictionaries

Have you ever traveled to a foreign land, where the language spoken is different from the one you were raised hearing?  It is so hard to immerse yourself into learning how to communicate in that “new” language.  You long for someone to communicate with you in your language, and when that moment happens there is such a sense of relief you just want to grab that person and take them on the rest of your vacation.

Everyone has a dictionary.  When you consider DISC, and behavioral sciences, every person you know is a unique blend of the four behavioral styles and that in turn gives them a root language.

Root Languages

The four factors of DISC give insight into the root languages spoken by people.  Understanding how to identify the factors in people brings us so much closer to unlocking the communication channel needed for every leader.

The D Factor – How a person addresses problems and challenges.   Words that work for someone that is high in the D Factor are: win, results, and new challenge.  Words that won’t work for this person: follow my directions and in my opinion.

The I Factor – How a person handles situations involving people and contacts.  Words that work for someone that is high in the I Factor are: fun, exciting, and this will make you look good.  Words that won’t work for this person: theoretically, requires study, and same for everyone.

The S Factor – How a person demonstrates pace and consistency.  Words that work for someone that is high in the S Factor are: step-by-step, think about it, and guarantee.  Words that won’t work are: substantive change, innovation, and play to win.

The C Factor – How a person reacts to procedures and constraints.  Words that work for someone that is high in the C Factor: here are the facts, proven, and analysis.  Words that won’t work are: cutting edge, educated guess, and experimental.

Now imagine the leader speaking to these four factors in a single meeting inspiring each of them to working toward a single goal.  Just taking it on the surface this leader would have to say to the team:

Alright team we are going to use a fun, proven, system that we will take step-by-step to success.  Analysis has shown this process to be stable and exciting!  Go Team!

OK so that really is an exaggeration, but not to far from what the leader needs to be thinking.

Much like a teacher preparing to teach a lesson for the day a leader needs to make sure that all factors are considered when preparing for the meeting.

  1. What will the results be?  How will we know we have arrived? (The D Factor)
  2. What people need to be influenced?  What are we going to do to bring all on board with us? (The I Factor)
  3. How will the process be rolled out?  Where can someone access the step-by-step guide? (The S Factor)
  4. What analysis of the problem has happened, and what still needs analysis to bring success? (The C Factor)

It is most comfortable for leaders to speak in their own language.  Most leaders are a combination of high D and I Factors.  So where does that leave the S and the C factors?  Usually frustrated.  The leader is leaving some the best team players on the bench.

In order to inspire the leader must engage all players and adapt the language spoken to incorporate all root languages!





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