What-LanguageTake a look at your professional bio, Linkedin profile and how you are introduced.  We have the power to use the language of leadership for creating a condition for our own success as well as for others.

I attended the “The Language of Leadership” a presentation by Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, Executive Director of Stanford University’s Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research, at a Women’s Leadership Conference held at Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles on September 20th, 2014. The presentation included fascinating data on the role of language in shaping leadership roles for men and women.  Part lecture and part hands-on workshop, Ms. Nishiura Mackenzie effectively challenged our perception of the language we use to speak about ourselves, others, as well as how our bosses and peers may describe us as colleagues and professionals.

Recommenders were found to use “nurturing” words to describe women, and “leadership” words to describe men.  Examples of nurturing words are “team player,” “good relationship manager”, “committed” and those of leadership words are “big thinker,” “influences others,” “takes risks” and “independent”.  More often than not the audience found that they fell into the large majority of those who unknowingly stereotype women and men into the language associated with traditional gender roles.  This can be especially detrimental for women trying for leadership roles – their bosses and peers think the world of their work, but may be hindering them by using nurturing words to describe their accomplishments and work ethic when providing a reference for that next promotion or opportunity.

Essentially, the language of leadership is the best way to advocate for ourselves and use our authority to advocate for others.  The recommended balance is to start and use more of the language of leadership, and culminate a written or spoken reference with nurturing language.

More information about Ms. Nishiura Mackenzie and the Clayman Institute for Gender Research can be found here: http://gender.stanford.edu/