Words are symbols. They point to something. Meaning lies within the common experience between two agents using the same words to point to that common experience.
Insight happens when both parties find a close enough shared experience that meaning is created. Like fiery embers, words burn images into our minds — not images of the words themselves, but of the thing to which they point.
Without words, each of us would live isolated within our own bubble of reality, unable to connect with others, unable to share our experience, unable to inquire about the experience of others, unable to live in community.
As a leader, how do you use words to connect with people? True connection requires that meaning flows in both directions. Do you use words only to send your message? Your meaning? Or do you take the time to receive? To enter into the meaning of others? To listen, to envision, and to allow the experience of another to penetrate your house of meaning?
Do your words encourage others to share their experience? To uncover their ideas, their dreams, their fears?
Or do your words cause others to use words perversely. To cover instead of uncover, to hide instead of reveal, to obfuscate, instead of illuminate. The leader’s use of words sets the tone for the entire organization.
Are your words conclusive? Then don’t expect additional insight from others. Don’t even ask their opinion as this would be a cruel trick to play. Like a zoo-keeper dangling a piece of meat in front of a hungry lion, fully knowing the iron bars will not allow the lion to partake.
Words are vehicles to carry meaning. Some words — bless their heart — are ill-equipped for the immensity of the task people ask them to perform.
Take, for example, the word Lead. It’s not a verb like fly, scratch, or read. Which model of leadership do you want me to embrace as I lead?
Do you want a Great Leader, one who has a purpose seared into his vision and will not relent regardless of what others think, feel — or how they suffer?
Do you want a diplomatic leader, one who tests the winds and makes her choices based on the mood of the moment?
Or do you want a leader who has principles but who draws people toward those principles through example, foresight, participation, and empowerment?
Each of the models comes with its own vocabulary. Words are used differently in each case. They can be used to impose your will or to solicit the growth of your people, to open channels of communication or block communication.
Which kind of leader are you?
Which kind of leader does our world need today?
Which kind of leader will help the world move toward civil and prosperous exchange?
Lead artwork by the author.
Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.