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3 Words You Should Drop From Your Leadership Vocabulary Starting Now

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

In fact, you should banish at least three from your leadership 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 take decisive actions.

I use these three words

as substitutes for action

as substitutes for specifics

as substitutes for clarity

Chances are you might as well.vocabulary

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 no one.

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 the 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 that 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 which 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.

Jeffrey E. Garten has rightly pointed out that vision without execution is a 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 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!

Note, I’m currently on sabbatical and as a result, most of my new blog posts in May are re-posts of some of my favourite but not as well known posts from the past few years. Hope they help you lead like never before. – Carey


  1. My 5 for Friday (May 13, 2016) | Art Rainer on May 13, 2016 at 4:22 am

    […] 3 Words You Should Drop From Your Leadership Vocabulary Starting Now by Carey Nieuwhof. Words really to matter. According to Nieuwhof, “Words matter when you’re a leader, and not all words are equally useful. In fact, you should banish at least three from your leadership vocabulary.” Find out those three words in this article. […]

  2. This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg on May 10, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    […] Nieuwhof wrote and shared about, “3 Words You Should Drop From Your Leadership Vocabulary Starting Now.” The words to drop are: someone; something; and […]

  3. YoungChurchLeaders on May 8, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Love it! I’d add “we’ll see”. I think when people bring up ideas you know you aren’t going to use it an easy opt out to say “we’ll see” or I’ll talk about with the team. However, sometimes you know it’s a bad idea and as leaders we just need to own it and be honest with them. As always, keep writing Carey!

  4. Johnathan Baldwin on May 6, 2016 at 6:27 am

    I have a phrase: “a lot of people.” This is usually when there has been a complaint or “suggestion.” I’m cool with listening to that stuff from senior leaders, but give me names of people because I’m pretty sure that a lot more people are on the other side of the complaint or suggestion.

  5. Jim Duggan on May 5, 2016 at 9:06 am

    As always, Carey, great insight and motivation. I pray every day that God will make me more intentional and give me great clarity of purpose. Thank you for always providing helpful resources along the way.

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