3 Words to Banish From Your Leadership Vocabulary

Words matter when you’re a leader, and not all words are equally useful.

In fact, you should banish at least three from your regular vocabulary.

Nobody wins when you use these words regularly, and they might be damaging your leadership without you even realizing it.

I end up using these words when I fail to make a decision.

I use these three words

as substitutes for action

as substitutes for specifics

as substitutes for clarity

Chances are you might as well.


3 Words to Banish Starting Now

So which three words trip up leader after leader and team after team? Here they are:


1. Someone

You know how this comes up. Someone should do something about that. Someone should fix that. Someone should step up.

Someone really means noone.

Here are some handy substitutes:

 will do something about it today.

I’m going to ask Josh to have that fixed by Friday.

Every single day, I’m going to ask five people to tackle the problem until someone steps up and says yes.

You can’t build a future on someone.


2. Something

You’ve said it. We need to do something about that.

I’m sure that’s true.

But the translation is, no one will do anything about it at all. Not until you become clear and specific.

Exactly what needs to be done? If you can’t define the solution, you haven’t even properly diagnosed the problem.

But answer those specific questions and things change. Then you have a plan.


3. Someday

Leaders can’t help but dream about someday. I dream and think about the future every single day.

But someday is also the graveyard of too many dreams and far too much vision.

You’re going to hire a dream staff member someday.

You’re going to radically change your church someday.

You’re going to break that bad habit someday.

You’re going to get organized someday.

And someday never comes. Days become months become years and absolutely nothing happens.

Someday actually means never.

As my friend Casey Graham says, deadlines drive decisions.

Putting a date on every intention might scare the life out of you, but that’s awesome. You’ll get things done. You will.

After all, as Jeffrey E. Garten has pointed out, a vision without execution is hallucination. Far too many leaders hallucinate. And they’re not actually leading anyone when they do.

If you can’t put a calendar date on it, then put a year on it and reverse engineer toward it. Sure, you’ll encounter setbacks, but the only the determined eventually break through.

I’m a far better leader when I stop talking about someone doing something someday.

You are too.

Any other words you’d banish?

Leave a comment!


  1. Cameron on November 4, 2018 at 4:38 am

    I’d ban we need to collaborate its the same as hallucinating if collaborate without a deadline

  2. christoph on April 12, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    sad fact is many sermon about about something, sometime

  3. Ben Whitley on April 12, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Someday someone should do something about that.

  4. James Wheeler on June 22, 2014 at 8:24 am

    The someday comment often is the escape clause for actual strategic planning. Don’t just talk about dreams and plans, do them! Thanks Carey you always nail it so simply and concisely. I would also banish Sorry as an excuse for consistent bad habits, like not leaving enough margin for your team to plan and help carry your message effectively. As in, “Sorry man I know I need to get better at such and such.” Sorry doesn’t cut it. A sincere apology for blowing it now and then is one thing, but consistent “sorrys” steal your credibility and competence.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 28, 2014 at 7:27 am

      James I missed this a month ago. I’ve never thought about sorry that way in a leadership context. Great point! Thank you!

  5. Nenke Jongkind on June 14, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Just, only,them are my three. I’m just the . . . I’m only . . . That may suit them . . . These words create separation and exclusion.

  6. […] Three Words to Banish From Your Leadership VocabularyHow to Be a Jerk Instead of  Leader […]

  7. deandeguara on May 5, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Two words “some churches.” I wrote a post last year on this phrase. Leaders use this phrase to compare their church with churches that don’t exist….”some churches do this & some churches do that…” but we do it like this which of course is the better way to do it.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2014 at 8:16 am

      Great point Dean. Thanks!

      *Carey Nieuwhof, Lead Pastor *
      *Connexus Church*
      *546 Bryne Drive, Unit E Barrie Ontario L4N 9P6* *connexuscommunity.com * *careynieuwhof.com *
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  8. Brent Dumler on April 25, 2014 at 7:29 am

    I love this one…”someday is also the graveyard of too many dreams and far too much vision.” Leaders must dream and look down the road. But without placing measurable deadlines and action steps to those goals and dreams they will only remain as thoughts we enjoy…but others never will.

  9. Gary Davis on April 24, 2014 at 10:18 am

    How about ‘Some How’. We tend to think the resources will never be there. That ‘some how’ perhaps someone else with a ‘means’ will come around to do it. Never forget to ‘ask,seek, knock’ – our Father is more than generous!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 25, 2014 at 10:25 am

      Absolutely. Although I use that word a lot when I’m planning for a situation that seems impossible. We’ll get this done. Don’t know how…but somehow. And we almost always do. Still a good one though!

  10. Lawrence W. Wilson on April 24, 2014 at 7:34 am

    How about “can’t”? My mother used to say, “Can’t never did anything.” Turns out she was right. That word is mostly a way of avoiding responsibility for things we that seem too difficult. “I don’t want to …” “It wouldn’t be effective to …” “The cost is higher than I’m willing to pay …” All sound better than “can’t.”

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 24, 2014 at 7:38 am

      Love this. So true! Your momma was wise. 🙂

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