15 Powerful Phrases That Will Make You A Better Leader

Powerful Phrases That Will Make You Better

Years ago, I was walking down a long office corridor in a nondescript office building. Visiting one of the largest companies in the area, I was being escorted to a conference room. What the purpose of that visit was, I really can’t remember.

But I do remember walking by one room. As I was passing by, I glanced in and saw a man at the front of a room filled with maybe twenty or so people. That would not be in my memory bank except for what I next heard.


“I’m sorry, I screwed that up and let you all down.”


That’s not something you often hear from the front of the room.

I froze, right in the doorway, wondering what he was apologizing for and what was going on. It took me a few seconds to realize that I had no business stopping to watch, so I willed my feet to keep walking.

In those few seconds, I don’t know the details of what happened. But I could discern that this was the boss, and he wasn’t holding back. He had made a mistake and was taking full responsibility for it.

It was impressive. I wonder what the others in that room thought. My guess is that they still talk about this boss of theirs.


“Words can inspire and words can destroy. Choose your words well.” -Robin Sharma


There are a few power-packed phrases that anyone can use to change the course of a conversation. Here are a few that leaders use to transform their teams:


“I’m sorry.”

As I said above, this one is powerful because it’s unexpected, and it demonstrates both self-awareness and personal responsibility. That’s not a boss who looks to throw the blame faster than a quarterback about to be sacked.

“Leaders who apologize demonstrate personal accountability.” -Skip Prichard


“Tell me more.”

It’s open-ended. It shows interest. It demonstrates listening skills.


“What’s working?”

Especially good if everyone is complaining. This one refocuses on what’s positive. You can build on what’s working before you get into what’s not.


“I’m proud of you.”

It sounds parental and maybe that’s where its power lies. But I’ve seen this one both as a giver and a receiver. When it’s sincere, it’s a powerful phrase because it is clear and concise.

“Next to excellence is the appreciation of it.” -William Makepeace Thackeray


“How can I be of help?”

I’m often surprised at the response. It may be that simply offering an ear helps enough, but often there are a few specifics that really make a difference and are easy to do.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

How Mentally Strong Are You?

Amy Morin first appeared on my radar when her blog post 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do was published. The post went viral and was viewed over 10 million times. Behind the powerful advice was an equally powerful story, one mixed with tragedy but also with hope and resolve.

Using her expertise as a clinical social worker and therapist, Amy works to help people facing setbacks reach for happiness and success.  Whether you are depressed or doing well, studying these 13 ideas will make you mentally stronger.

After reading her new book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success I was so busy talking about it and giving copies to friends that I forgot to circle back and interview her.  I’m now pleased to share our conversation in the hopes it may help others going through tough times.


“When you become mentally strong, you will be your best self.” -Amy Morin


3 Parts of Mental Strength

How do you define mental strength?

Mental strength has three parts: thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Building mental strength involves learning to regulate thoughts so they’re helpful and realistic, understanding how to control emotions so your emotions don’t control you, and discovering how to behave productively despite your circumstances.


“Don’t allow inaccurate beliefs about your abilities to hold you back from success.” -Amy Morin


From Grief to Mental Strength

What inspired you to first write about mental strength?

13-Things-Mentally-Strong-People-Dont-Do coverI’ve always been interested in psychology and resilience. Over the years as a therapist, I’ve really enjoyed helping other people learn how to increase their mental strength. But in 2003, my interest became personal.

I had been working as a therapist for about a year, and things were going well for me both professionally and personally. But my life changed in an instant when my mother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm. She and I had been very close, and I certainly learned a lot about mental strength first-hand as I managed my grief.

Then, on the three year anniversary of my mother’s death, my 26-year-old husband died from a heart attack. Dealing with such a sudden and major loss in my life was incredibly painful. I was able to take a little time off work, but I eventually had to return to my job as a therapist. Helping other people address their problems in my therapy office while privately dealing with my own grief taught me a lot about mental strength.

A few years later, just as life was looking pretty good again, I experienced another major loss. I had just gotten remarried when my father-in-law, whom I had grown incredibly close to, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Unlike my previous two losses which were both sudden and unexpected, this time I knew what was coming.

As my father-in-law’s health deteriorated I wrote my original list, “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.” It was meant to serve as a reminder of all the things I needed to avoid if I wanted to face the future with courage and strength. About two weeks after I wrote the article – in the midst of it going viral – he passed away.


“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” -John Powell


Train Your Brain for Happiness

You’ve been through so much grief. Your pain is now benefiting many who are learning lessons from your experience. Part of the subtitle of your book is Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success. How do you train your brain?

Training your brain for happiness and success is not the same as chasing happiness.  When people chase happiness, they give in to instant gratification, and it leaves them feeling unhappier than ever. Building mental strength is about working toward your goals and living according to your values, both of which lead to happiness over the long haul. Training your brain for happiness involves paying close attention to all the choices you make each day and examining how those choices impact your mental strength.

Building mental strength is very similar to building physical strength. If you wanted to become physically stronger, you’d need good habits – like going to the gym. But you’d also need to get rid of bad habits – like eating too much junk food. Training our brains is similar. We need good habits – like thinking positively, but we also need to get rid of bad habits – like shying away from change.


“Mental strength is built by regulating thoughts, managing emotions, and behaving productively.” -Amy Morin

When Sorry Isn’t Enough

One of life’s essential leadership skills is the art of the apology.  Part of being human is that we all make mistakes, say the wrong thing, and misread others.  We hurt people sometimes knowingly and sometimes not.

Some people have a difficult time saying, “I am sorry” while others are able to say it freely.

But is sorry enough?


  • Ever hear the words “I am sorry” but it didn’t do it for you?
  • Have you ever apologized to someone only to find that it almost fell flat?
  • What if there was a specific language of apology that changed everything?


Gary Chapman is the author of the 5 Love Languages® series and director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants.  Jennifer Thomas is an author, speaker, and psychologist.  Their new book When Sorry Isn’t Enough taught me why “I am sorry” is often not good enough.  I recently had the opportunity to connect with Dr. Thomas and talk about the art of the apology, relationships, forgiveness and trust.


“Forgiveness holds the power to give renewed life to the relationship.” –Chapman / Thomas


Sorry Isn’t Always Enough


Why did you decide to research and study the apology?

Several years ago, I made a mistake that led to an argument with my husband. Ironically, this incident happened the evening before we were to teach about communication and forgiveness to a pre-marital class at our church.  As he and I worked through our own argument, I offered an apology to him that failed to hit the mark.  I was thinking to myself, “This is not good. We are barely speaking and yet we are supposed to teach together tomorrow.”9780802407047

Normally, I might have been miffed by his response, but this time my curiosity took over and so I asked him what he would like to hear in my apology.  While I had been saying, “I’m sorry,” he needed to hear me say, “I was wrong.”  I had made a mistake, and I knew I was in the wrong, so I went ahead and said it to my husband.  I was amazed by how quickly this apology worked. My husband felt better, and the emotional tension between the two of us slipped away.

I made a mental note to include my husband’s favorite words in future apologies I would give to him.  I wondered if our experience might help other people who are in the “doghouse” and don’t know how to get out of there.


The Language of Apology


How did you connect your ideas with Dr. Chapman’s love languages?

I had met Gary Chapman locally through my work as a psychologist in private practice in North Carolina.  I was curious about his thoughts on apologies.  I thought to myself, “Just as you should show love in a language that really speaks to others, you should also speak apologies that contain the words they are waiting to hear.”  Six months later, I made an appointment to talk over these ideas with him.  Dr. Chapman was very encouraging, and we ended up writing a book together.

Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas



“Genuine apology opens the door to the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.” –Chapman / Thomas


If you are close to someone, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to apologize to them. How can you be prepared to speak their apology language?

Here are a couple of conversation starters that will help you be prepared when the need to apologize arises. Ask the people who are closest to you:

  1. When you hear a great apology, what is included?
  2. When you hear a lame apology, what is missing?

You can also click on my website’s “free resources” tab to take the apology language and love language assessments for free.


“Trust is that gut-level confidence that you will do what you say you will do.” –Chapman / Thomas


Why I Am Sorry is Hard to Say