+ | - | reset

The art of communication is the language of leadership’ – James Humes


Board has been shouldering the responsibility of selecting, supporting and reviewing the CEO‘s performance regularly. In line with this, it’s highly advantageous for the board to have upper hands on the leadership language usually led by the CEO. An organisation-wide leadership framework, model and tools as a communication basis might be a norm for some but an entirely new way of operating for others. Regardless of the scenarios, the presence of ‘Leadership Language’ in the organisation makes things move smoother and quicker. 

Leadership language encourages the entire workforce to speak a common language aligned with the business goals and is supported by the organisation’s culture. A leadership language provides essential growth for employees and the organisation. Not having a common language leads to goal misalignment, lack of clarity in role expectations and communication breakdown. The fundamental is the existence of the leadership language, its awareness among the employees and leaders followed by strong implementation and success measures.  

These 5 leadership languages provide a key understanding and awareness on leadership culture and language to the board members.  

Leadership Language 1 : Personality Profiling Tool 

Numerous assessment tools are available such as Insights, DiSC, Hogan, Harrisson and Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Based on the culture and leadership requirements, organisation may select the most appropriate tool applicable globally or at the national level. It creates a standard assessment methodology leading toward fairness and a common leadership language. This strongly bonds employees by understanding each other’s behaviour using a standard personality profiling tool thus reducing the miscommunication among employees, team members and leaders. These tools can be applied both for hiring and professional development purposes. Board members are highly recommended to undergo a similar assessment to better understand their personalities.  

 Leadership Language 2 : The Leadership Competencies 

This varies by organisations, based on business demands and culture. Most importantly organisations adopt robust and structured leadership competency. For some, leadership competency may come from the culture itself, for example leading with passion, purposeful leadership, and continuous improvement merged with good transparency and information sharing at the workplace. Leaders should emphasise and have check- for employee awareness of the leadership style and regularly clarify role and performance expectations. Leadership competencies can be embedded in the performance management system as and when applicable.  

Leadership Language 3 : The Coaching Culture 

Coaching has always been a significant part of development, both at personal and professional levels. At the workplace, coaching is a vital leadership component in leading self, leading others and elevating business to greater heights. Remote coaching is a new addition to this as many are experiencing hiccups in building a relationship of trust, especially with new employees. An availability and strong understanding of the coaching model helps to champion coaching effectiveness to the next stage in the organisation. Organisations and leaders may select out of many available coaching available such as GROW and OSCAR models as well as the nine coaching masteries by the International Association of Coaching (IAC), depending on the culture and needs.  

Leadership Language 4: Leadership Model  

Organisations may have identified a leadership language, yet they struggle in hitting the right chord during implementation. Managing a diversified workforce and remote team management are also some challenges that leaders are experiencing nowadays. Is a single leadership model sufficient to resolve this, or do multiple models serve better? The leadership Model is a guideline for leaders and their expected behaviours, advisable to closely link with leadership competencies. For example, John Maxwell’s ‘The 5 Levels of Leadership’ serves as a good reference.  

Leadership Language 5 : Leadership Style  

A very interesting debate has been going on for the last few decades. Which leadership style is more preferred, the command and control versus the collaborative or a hybrid? I came across an answer, command and control are more desired when we are under time pressure. To some people, collaborative leadership is applicable only in the selective environment and work culture. Nevertheless, no one size fits all. A blended approach, depending on the situation mixed with organisational culture, employees learning agility, team goals, role expectations and many other aspects of business and strategy helps to achieve success. Several organisations are gearing towards servant leadership and transformational leadership. Situational Leadership II emphasises Development Level (D) versus Leadership Style (S) is a good leadership reference point.  

These five leadership languages could be equally essential, or one may carry a heavier weight than the other depending on the organisation’s strategy and culture. Neglecting these languages may spark unwanted business issues. A generic understanding of these leadership languages is definitely helpful in the decision-making process for board members.  

The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” – John Maxwell


Prakash Santhanam is an experienced global talent management practitioner and is an affiliate member of ICDM. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Rate this article

5 / 5. 1

Is this article good for you?
markus spiske QozzJpFZ2lg unsplash 1 scaled
5  Read

The Leadership Language for Board Considerations

04 August 2022