Jacob Morgan
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Jacob Morgan

Leadership is Language

David Marquet is the bestselling author of the 2013 book, Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders and the new book, Leadership is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say and What You Don’t, which comes out on February 4th.

David was in the Navy for 28 years and he was ultimately selected to be captain of a nuclear submarine. And it was during his time as a captain of the USS Santa Fe that he changed his leadership style and that change led to him writing his first book.

Click here to listen to the podcast episode

What does David mean by “leadership is language’? He explains that while there are a lot of professions that require a person to work mainly with their hands, in leadership, because it is always about other people, leaders interact through words — face to face, emails, company statements, annual reports, etc…As he says, “the magic of leadership is that by changing your words you will change the world around you because if you ask a question a different way, you’ll get a different answer.”

In his book David gives six plays that all leaders should use to improve how their teams operate. He says a big problem with leaders today is that they are trapped in an industrial-age playbook. In the industrial age leaders gave commands and employees followed, and that was it. But that way of leading is no longer effective, it is outdated.

The six plays are:

  • Control the clock, don’t obey the clock — Pre-plan decision points and give your people the tools they need to hit pause on a plan of action if they notice something wrong.
  • Collaborate, don’t coerce — As the leader, you should be the last one to offer your opinion.
  • Commit, don’t comply — Rather than expect your team to comply with specific directions, explain your overall goals, and get their commitment to achieving it one piece at a time.
  • Complete, not continue — If every day feels like a repetition of the last, you’re doing something wrong.
  • Improve, don’t prove — Ask your people to improve on plans and processes, rather than prove that they can meet fixed goals or deadlines.
  • Connect, don’t conform — Flatten hierarchies in your organization and connect with your people to encourage them to contribute to decision-making

David also explains the uneven “share of voice” that happens inside of so many organizations. Inside of meetings leaders tend to talk the most, which is not good. It is something that leaders need to be aware of. He says, “As a leader, you don’t need to say a lot because you already know what you think and when you start talking, you’re anchoring the group. Basically, the idea is you’re bringing them to your way of thinking, which is what you think you wanna do but it’s actually not. What you want to do is understand how they think and what they think, and at the end, you can decide what to do, whether you could do what they wanna do or what you wanna do, that’s fine. But it’s after uncovering what everybody thinks.”

What you will learn:

  • The real life example of how David changed his leadership style while captaining a nuclear submarine
  • Why employees should talk more than leaders
  • 6 plays for all leaders to implement to improve how their team operates
  • How to embrace variability, instead of reducing it
  • How to foster a culture of collaborative experimentation

Get the transcript here

This episode is sponsored by my friends at Conga, the company that’s helping people spend less time on manual work and more time on the projects they love. If you’re tired of endless paperwork and manual processes, make sure to check them out at http://bit.ly/congaddx




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Jacob Morgan

Jacob Morgan

4x Best-Selling Author, Speaker, & Futurist. Founder of FutureOfWorkUniversity.com. Exploring Leadership, Employee Experience, & The Future of Work

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