The 3 Words Every Leader Should Ban

The late Steve Jobs was famous, maybe even infamous, for unapologetically erupting at his employees. An example of this came across in an interview the Apple CEO gave 60 Minutes a few years back, when he said (among other things): “G*d, we really f**ked up the engineering on this, didn’t we?”

Related: 25 Bad Words That Make Other People Feel Inferior

In short, Jobs was intense. He held high standards which, depending on your perspective, might or might not have been good reason to get down and dirty with the leaders Jobs hired to carry his vision forward.

Then there’s Elon Musk. According to Musk’s employees, the Tesla CEO’s favorite word is the F-bomb and he’s not the most pleasant guy to work for. Certainly, Musk knows what he wants, and he demands it. He doesn’t seem particularly averse to conflict, either. As a result, his leadership style is lacking and he’s created a culture promoting climbers and back-stabbers.

Next? Jeff Bezos, the brains behind Amazon, who’s known for outbursts that terrify employees. In The Everything Store, author Brad Stone reported that Bezos is “extremely difficult to work for” partly because his communication style is so calculated. Reputedly, even his laugh cuts through a person as if its aim is to punish.

Yet the language leaders use doesn’t have to be punishing. In fact, leaders who intend to inspire their tribe may very well inadvertently shut them down the team when they explode with angry, negative language. Dropping F-bombs might be a cultural norm at a company. But more likely, they’re an HR nightmare. Either way, leaders put a lot of weight behind certain words, and misuse others.

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