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Leadership Language


The words we choose matter. They matter a lot. What if there were things to help people remember our message?

Good news! There are! Here are some rhetorical devices taken straight from a TEDx Verona talk by Simon Lancaster to help you speak like a leader!

The Language of Leadership

  • Asyndeton/Tricolon

Look left, look right, look center, stop, listen...

This mimics hyperventilating.  President Obama used it…”a world at war, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a generation.” Three is the magic number in rhetoric!

Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Eat well, laugh often, love much.  It’s here, there & everywhere and you sound more convincing, more credible, if you put your thoughts in 3’s!

  • 3 Sentences

Churchill used this…”we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets”.  When we want to convey passion, this is the one to use!

  • Balanced Statements

To be or not to be. -Shakespeare

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. -President Kennedy

Our brain likes the balance & assumes the thinking is balanced.  Make sure your thinking is!

  • Metaphor

This one is the elephant in the room.  The one nobody talks about yet they are scattered everywhere. These are powerful.  Let’s take one from a few years ago “The Financial Storm”.  This one gives us a picture that this was an act of nature that will pass without us doing much. We reach for one of these every 16 words on average, make sure yours paints the right picture!

  • Exaggeration

I didn’t sleep at all last night.  I’ve been waiting to give this talk my whole life.  I’m going to give my heart & soul to you.

  • Rhyme

This helps with our processing of language.  When we speak in big words or use jargon people don’t understand it’s like asking you to eat a steak in 2 bites.  The thing to watch out for is sometimes the rhyme won’t be true, like: I before E except after C.  There are 44 examples where it’s true & 900 where it’s not.  OR  An apple a day keeps the Doctor away.  If only it were that simple.

Reminds me of one of "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz...

Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Words have influence & influence is leadership. Keep leading!

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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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