Leaders are talkers and communicators. They have what Bobby Clinton calls “Word Gifts.” They lead, develop and care for those for whom they have responsibility; and they do all these things by using words. But words can also undercut what leaders are trying to accomplish. Dan Rockwell shares ten things leaders never say unless they want trouble!

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell

Words are…

Words are troublemakers.

Organizational turmoil traces back to something smart you didn’t say or something stupid you did say. Unclear expectations, conflicting job roles, recurring tension, and strained relationships reflect poor communication.

Words are rudders.

The trajectory of your team and organization traces back to the words that come out of your mouth.

Words are windows.

Unguarded words reveal who you are.

Words are remedies.

The right words provide direction, fuel energy, and build confidence. But nagging complaints are weights.

10 things smart leaders never say:

  1. “That’s easy,” when people are frustrated.
  2. “Our boss is an idiot,” when you disagree.
  3. “Failure is not an option,” unless lives are on the line.
  4. “I have a surprise for you.”
  5. “Just do it.” Or, “Shut up and do it.”
  6. “It doesn’t matter what you think.”
  7. “My former team never did this.”
  8. “Get over it.” You might ask, “How can you move forward?”
  9. “I’ll do it myself,” unless you want to keep doing it yourself.
  10. “That’s not how I would have done that.”


#1. Stupid words begin with closed ears.

Listen to adults as if they were five-year old grandchildren. Lean in. Sit on the edge of your seat. (This may be a little over the top, but you get the point.)

#2. Sometimes the best thing you can say is a question.

Ask two questions before you say one thing.

#3. Imagine words have physical impact.

What would you say if words were hammers?

Harsh words are slaps, kicks, and spit. Challenging words are pushes and pulls. Encouraging words are a hand up.

#4. Fatigue multiplies stupidity.

Stop talking if you’re stressed or exhausted.

What should leaders never say?

How might leaders harness the tongue?