Executive Coach Executive CoachExecutive Coach
Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

The Government Shutdown and the Verbal Tells That Give Leaders Away

ARCHIVES

Well, here we are again.  This week’s federal government shutdown is the latest in a series of sad and maddening examples of a leadership class that’s disconnected from the people it’s supposed to lead and serve.  There are plenty of commentators from across the spectrum who are offering their opinions on the issues and the politics behind the shutdown so I won’t go into that here.  That’s not the purpose of this blog anyway.

Instead, I want to call out something I’ve noticed in the story that can be both a pitfall for leaders and a warning sign for the people they lead.  It’s the go to word or catch phrase that a leader uses when they don’t want to say what’s really going on.  It’s known as the verbal tell.

In reading coverage of the shutdown, the verbal tell that I’ve seen again and again from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle in both houses is “the American people.”  As in, “the American people don’t want this,” or “the American people deserve better than this.”  (You see example after example in this article from the New York Times.)  The phrase is used so much that it’s become a cliché that cues the listener to stop listening to what’s coming next.  You could cut the insincerity with a knife.  It’s the opposite of authentic leadership.

Of course, it’s not just political leaders who have verbal tells.  Some of the usual suspects from other career paths include:

  • “This shouldn’t take you too long (get ready for an all nighter),”
  • “I value your opinion (and when I want it, I’ll give it to you),” and
  • “It’s not you, it’s me (It’s you. Wait a second, how’d that one get on this list?)

Leadership tells are credibility killers.  That’s why it’s so important to be aware of them and eliminate them from your lexicon.  The quality of the conversation and the outcome will be greatly improved in the process.

What are the leadership tells that you’ve worked hard to remove from your repertoire?  What are the leadership tells that turn on your radar system and drive you crazy when you hear them?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.