Embracing The Word “We” Instead of “I”.

Leading effectively is undeniably challenging. As leaders, we must not only focus on our individual performance but also on the performance of our team members.

Leaders cannot afford to have a bad day or even a momentary lapse, as it sends the wrong message to the team and quickly erodes morale. Consistency is key, alongside being inspiring, visionary, quick-thinking, and possessing a multitude of other essential skills.

Leadership entails rallying the team and fostering a sense of collective purpose. It’s about aligning everyone’s efforts, fostering a strong sense of team cohesion, and acknowledging the team’s contributions to shared successes. However, I’ve noticed that far too often, leaders employ “I” statements when things are going well, but shift to “we” when challenges arise.

Marketing expert Seth Godin once highlighted the profound impact a simple change of pronoun can have on how a business leader interacts with customers and partners. He suggested that instead of claiming credit with “I,” leaders should opt for “we.” Similarly, when avoiding responsibility, leaders should replace “we” with “I.” It’s intriguing how such a small shift in language can yield such significant outcomes. This notion is further supported by researcher Jim Collins in his excellent book, “Good to Great,” which I highly recommended for all leaders.

Collins discovered a stark disparity in the language used by high-performing and low-performing CEOs. The top performers embraced “we” far more often than “I,” while the opposite was true for their less successful counterparts. Collins also introduced the concept of the “window and the mirror.” He found that underperforming CEOs looked out the window to assign blame, while looking in the mirror to claim credit. In contrast, the most successful CEOs did the opposite.

Who would have thought that such seemingly insignificant words could make such a profound difference? If you are a leader, or aspire to become one, I urge you to examine your language the next time you interact with your team. Are you an “I” leader who criticises by looking out the window, or are you on the right path by embracing “we”? Remember, collective leadership and the power of language can shape a team’s success and create a thriving environment.

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.