The Language of Leadership

This week I spent a couple of minutes talking with Libby Gorr and Cameron Schwab about the language of leadership. We spoke about the importance of understanding the difference between leader, leadership and management.

In the work that we do at Affectus, the language of leadership matters and matters a lot.

There are the conceptual words that swirl around leadership.

And then there are the overarching words that frame leadership.

When talking about the overarching these are the key ones that we need to get our head around.


Leadership is the decision to act and affect with a group of others. This group, generally, have an understanding of and an agreement with the direction being taken or the endpoint that has been established.


A Leader is an individual who commands the group and usually has a title. This title is often bestowed by the group.


Management, generally, is about the process of dealing with and/or controlling people or things.

Leadership and Leader

In my conversation with Libby and Cameron, we talked about the importance of understanding the difference between leadership and leader.

Cameron and I agreed that leadership is a decision and an action and done with others. While leading is about a title which comes and goes.

We also discussed management being very different to leadership. That leadership is about finding a direction and moving there. Management, on the other hand, is much more focused on achieving results.

Of course, it is clear that these two concepts can be undertaken by the one person. However, different thinking is required when demonstrating leadership or providing management.

See, the words are important because they change our way of thinking and therefore our actions. Language is incredibly important.


And then there are the other words…

The words that swirl around leadership; the decision to take action and then to act with a group of other like-minded people.

Words like:

  • courage
  • direction
  • vision
  • passion
  • empathy
  • knowledge
  • teams
  • insight
  • capacity
  • humour
  • creativity
  • inspiration
  • awareness.

These are the most common words our people, participants and graduates mention when leadership is reviewed at the conclusion of our programs and events. And this is what you and I seek when undertaking leadership action.

A new level

What leadership do you see demonstrated around you?

I see people being courageous, communicating their vision and living and speaking their passions. We work with people who understand that empathetic, open, insightful leadership is what they are striving to demonstrate.

So how do we (you and I) get to a new level of leadership?

  1. Understand that leadership is always undertaken with others. You may have the idea but it will remain an idea, an interesting activity until you gather others around you to move.
  2. Find a way to grow your understanding and capacity around leadership. Do this by working with a leadership mentor, a mentor focused and experienced in the leadership space.
  3. Identify what your vision is, big or small; immediate or long-term and start talking about it.

Read our other leadership blogs here.