Language Is Leadership: A book review by Bob Morris

Leadership Is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say–and What You Don’t
L. David Marquet
Portfolio/Penguin (February 2020)

Earn respect and trust by what you do and how well you do it, and that includes communication

As I began to work my way through the first few chapters, I was again reminded of what the results of several major research studies revealed. The subject was impact during face-to-face contact. Although there were slight variations of percentage among the studies, all agreed that tone of voice and body language determine 80-85% of the impact; only 15-20% is determined by what is said.

I agree with David Marquet that changes in the workplace, indeed throughout our society, require changes in how we communicate with others. He focuses on six, devoting a separate chapter to each:

1. Control the clock instead of obeying the clocK
2. Collaborate instead of coercing
3. Commitment rather than compliance
4. Complete defined goasls instead of cointinuing work indefginitely
5. Improve outcomes rather than prove ability
6. Connect with people instead of conforming to your role

He explains each of these changes in context, within the narrative. Miuch of what he says is guided and informedc by his experiences as a ship’s captain in the U.S. Navy. (Check out his first book, Turn The Ship Around!) Military officers probably offer the best group example of the “command and control”style of leadership. Marquet would be among the first to point out that leaders in the military must communicate much differently now, selecting what they say and how they say it with great care…and deciding what they don’t say with even greater care.

These are “hidden powers” that all leaders must develop.

All organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. That is possible only in a workplace culture within which communication, cooperation, and collaboration are most likely to thrive. And that could be in a building or aboard a ship.

David Marquet is correct: Leadership is language but effective leadership is possible only if language is used effectively. That is, by what is said and not said as well as by tone of voice and body language. Ultimately, leaders earn respect and trust, not by title or rank but by what they do and how well they do it…and that includes communicating.

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