Engal, Bart. Leading through language: Choosing words that influence and inspire. Wiley, 2015.
Desperately searching for a model strategic plan, I reviewed the 2016 plan produced by an elite university library. The first page listed new strategic directions, including these three:
- Creating platforms for scholarly engagement
- Supporting emerging literacies
- Transforming the information ecosystem
All 5 pages of the strategic plan use this cryptic language.
This is not unusual. Managers often use particular phrases to capture complex ideas, assuming that the audience understands their meaning. Stringing these phrases into sentences and paragraphs makes it even less comprehensible.
In his new book Leading Through Language, Bart Egnal, CEO of The Humphrey Group, a communications consulting firm, explains that in the business world, jargon often undermines effective leadership. He uses his experience as an executive coach to explain why people use jargon and how leaders can use clear language to convey their ideas and to influence others.
Egnal begins his book by explaining that use of jargon can be positive. Jargon used within a small group of similar people fosters a sense of shared identity or serves as shorthand for concepts that everyone knows. But Egnal catalogs many negative types jargon, such as the unnecessary add-on (At the end of the day; Having said that) or the baffling noun cluster (Team strategy plan priorities) that confuse the listener. He encourages speakers to adopt the mindset of a leader, to communicate ideas clearly and to use every conversation as an opportunity to inspire action.
To speak as a leader, Egnal recommends developing a mental script of well-defined ideas that are ready to be articulated as communication opportunities arise. Scripts are adapted for particular audiences and delivered with authenticity and conviction. Every script has a clear subject, one sentence that defines the topic for the audience. An effective script also has a single leadership message that is positive, engaging and true and it ends with a call to action.
In Leading Through Language, Egnal shows how to articulate ideas that motivate others. He includes many examples of strong and weak messages. However, his book does not include something promised by the subtitle and the cover design – the specific “words that influence and inspire.” Nonetheless, this book is recommended for anyone who aspires to be a leader.
© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.