Phrases Successful Leaders Never Use

This is a guest post by Zoe Anderson. Zoe is part of the team behind StudySelect. She’s interested in finding new motivation tools and branding strategies. After one of my recent posts on words, this submission grabbed my attention.

The Power of Words

Words have power. Just ask any successful leader. Whether in business, politics, or life, the right words can open the doors of opportunity, while the wrong words can get that same door slammed in your face.

With this list of phrases that you will never hear a successful leader use, you can benefit from the wisdom of others and avoid having the doors of opportunity and success closed to you.


“That’s not my fault.”

Good leaders always take responsibility and would never dream of throwing their subordinates under the bus by trying to shift blame. If you always take responsibility, you will gain the trust and loyalty of your team.



“I’m the boss.”

If you have to keep reminding your team who is in charge, then you are showing your weakness as a leader. Confidence, rather than arrogance is the attitude you should be aiming for. People naturally follow confidence, while arrogance invites contempt.


“I’ll do it myself.”

This shows a lack of confidence in your team and sends the message that no one else is as good as you are. If you find that your team isn’t performing up to standard, it’s your job to guide them through and get them the help they need. The first attempts at doing something will rarely yield stellar results. You may need to give people a little space to fail at first so you can give them the feedback they need to improve.


“I know that.”

If your team’s suggestions and ideas are constantly dismissed or met with a know-it-all attitude, they are less likely to feel the need to contribute. They may even wonder why they are needed at all. Valuing the opinions and ideas of others demonstrates that you value them. It builds morale and makes for a stronger team.


“Failure is not an option.”

Saying this only serves to make people feel as though they have to walk on eggshells for fear of making a mistake. People don’t perform well under this kind of pressure. It inhibits creativity and stifles innovation. Good leaders understand that failure is not only an option, it’s part of the package.



“That’s not the way we do it here.”

Growth is the only way to succeed consistently over time. That involves creativity, innovation and change. Great leaders are always in the market for a better process. Doing something the same way it’s always been done, just because it’s always been done that way, is the path to obsolescence.



“I never read books.”

Studies have shown that successful people read more than unsuccessful people. While it may seem that successful business people might only read nonfiction books related to business, this is often not the case. Reading fiction is just as valuable for enhancing creativity, boosting memory, and reducing stress—all things that can help you on the path to success.


“I don’t take time off.”

It’s dangerous to think that you can perform at peak levels day in and day out without ever taking a break to relax or recharge. Every successful leader knows that you have to balance focused work with time away from the office. Good vacations make better workers.



“If it’s not illegal, do it.”

Effective leaders would never encourage, much less sanction, any unethical behavior. Taking an attitude of “the ends justify the means” could lead to criminal acts that would place the company – not just that person – in jeopardy. Successful leaders model the kind of strong character that their team can look up to. While no one expects perfection, they shouldn’t have to fear they’ll be asked to do something illegal in order to keep their job.


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