The Language of Success.

Reportedly, J.R.R. Tolkien studied linguistics prior to writing his enormously successful series of “Lord of the Rings” novels. The language he created gave tremendous depth and interest to these stories, and elevated them to great heights of success.

It’s a shame more business people don’t strive to do the same – creating their own “language of success.” What I mean is translating their work into new, descriptive combinations of words/thought which communicate a unique way to think about, and practice, the work they do. A language that binds people together and elevates them well above the normal and routine.

When you develop a way of talking about your business that’s out of the ordinary, you have an opportunity to raise people’s level of understanding, sharpen their efforts, and spark their spirit. Work becomes a quest, instead of just a job – which has greater meaning and the power to inspire. Motivate. And lead to higher performance.

But you’ve got to be committed to it.

Put Your Heart into It

Southwest Airlines recently launched a powerful extension of its “luv theme” by organizing its brand around the thought that, “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.” They might say it’s a new idea. Well yes it is, but it’s also a new way to express the entire operating history of the airline – since 1967, this organization has focused on people and relationships – “people are its most powerful fuel.” What makes this language work is that it’s just as believable for Southwest’s employees, as it is for its customers. They’ve all heard about and experienced the relational emphasis of their business, for a long, long time.

A critical element is actually “living the language” – i.e. it’s not just words, but words that truly represent how the organization sees the world – how leaders and their employees regularly behave, and what they intend to become. Effective language captures the underlying leadership philosophy, the system and structures it promotes, and the culture that will be purposefully, and relentlessly pursued.

Language is Powerful.

So get to work.

The time to begin developing your language of success is now. Think about it. Finding the right words won’t be easy, which is why you need to begin discovering and searching for these communication nuggets early and over an extended time. The longer and harder you look, the more successful you will become in articulating the real uniqueness of your endeavor. And the more “ah ha” insights will come to you.

Be Real but Be Bold

Don’t just strap on a slogan. In order for the language you elicit to have maximum effect, it must be expressed in your actions. But go ahead and communicate the best you (as a group, team, organization) intend to be, and then work toward that ideal. In the beginning, it’s not so much what you are now, but what you intend to be in the future. Give yourself a big goal. The closer you get to it, the more consistent you are, the more real it will become, and the more momentum you will have to thrust the organization.

Leaders, “Start your language.” Words matter.

– Jerry Strom

Use Twitter to learn more from the Focal Points Leadership Study. Search quotes and findings by using the hashtag #FocalPointsRPT, or by following me: @JerryRStrom. For more information about our leadership and team development programs, please visit . Join the mailing list to receive new articles as they are published.

This article is based on the *’Focal Points Study: The Most Important Things a Leader Should Know,’ copyright 2014, by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Find the Research Abstract, along with descriptions of many of our other research projects at .


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