Leadership Double-Speak

October 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

Double speakHave you ever worked for an employer who said one thing while meaning something completely different? Here are a few examples I’ve heard over the years.

To the public: “Customers are number one.” To the employees: “the profit column had better not deviate a degree or two – it’s all about sales.”

To the public: “We’re glad you’re here!” Yet their actions don’t reflect that attitude.

I never get political here, but how about this one: “Raising the debt ceiling does not mean more debt. It simply means paying for what we’ve already spent.” Seriously? If we’ve already spent more than we were allowed to spend by the former debt ceiling then that means we have a larger debt.

And who hasn’t heard this: “It’s not my fault, we’ve got a spending freeze.” Yet they hire more employees. Or take the execs on a “work trip”.

Don’t you just get tired of hearing “double-speak”? I do. Why can’t our leaders just be honest? Is there an unwritten law that says something about leaders, once they are in leadership positions, have to become dis-honest?

I don’t think so.

In fact, do you know what leadership expert John Maxwell has to say about this subject? He says in his book Developing the Leader Within You that the most important ingredient of leadership is Integrity. Why is it that integrity is, as he puts it, “a vanishing commodity today”? I think it’s because too many leaders feel pressured to succumb to using “double-speak.” They say one thing to one crowd and mean something completely different while they are saying it.

In the “old days” we would call that lying. And as a young boy if I was caught in a lie, I’d get my mouth washed out with soap – just as if I had said a “bad word.” In the courtroom it’s called perjury and is supposed to be punishable by law. The Walt Disney character, Pinocchio, had a nose that would grow with every lie he told. Can you imagine if that were the case for everyone today? Yet it has become so common that we have almost turned a deaf ear when we hear it.

Don’t give in! Don’t just continue the “double-speak” because everyone else is doing it. Then learn to recognize it when you hear it and don’t settle for it.

What’s your favorite “double-speak” phrase you’ve heard recently?



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