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 OJL  Vol.5 No.2 , June 2016
Leadership and the Limitations of Language
Abstract: The elusiveness of our words, their inability to fully capture reality, and our natural tendency to hear only what fits with our existing framing lenses contribute to the limitations of language. These inadequacies are especially important when it comes to leadership since language is the leader’s most important resource. In order to be effective, leaders must be aware that language creates contexts and that contexts are, by nature, limiting. This awareness doesn’t immunize them from the limitations of language but it does position them to use language in ways that maximizes its impact. In order to create shared meaning and a shared vision, and to overcome these limitations of language, leaders must 1) be as clear and concise as possible about the organization’s direction, values (culture), and performance expectations; 2) encourage dialogue and a rich diversity of perspectives, and 3) use transformative language to rewrite the future. Changing people’s entrenched beliefs and behaviors that have been successful for decades almost always requires a story about the future that engages and captivates them. That future, which is only a possibility today, must be appealing enough to produce the necessary courage in people to take on the status quo. It must be “hittable” enough so that it shows up for people as feasibly solvable and they simultaneously show up for themselves as capable of tackling it. And, the new future must be inspirational enough to unite and align them so that their decisions and actions can be coordinated efficiently and effectively.
Cite this paper: Souba, W. and Souba, M. (2016) Leadership and the Limitations of Language. Open Journal of Leadership, 5, 39-50. doi: 10.4236/ojl.2016.52005.
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