By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to clarify your meaning and enhance your authority. Reading time: 3:14
The sesquipedalophobiacs are coming! The sesquipedalophobiacs are coming! Hail to the sesquipedalophobiacs. Also known by its 15-syllable cousin hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.
Still trying to spit out that mouthful? No wonder leaders strive for clarity. They hate big words. They even have a name for the fear of long words: sesquipedalophobia.
(Hey, there’s a long word for everything, even a long word for the fear of long words.)
Leaders seek clarity and embrace the biblical reference (Ecclesiastes 6:11) when Solomon observed: “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?”
They agree with President Dwight Eisenhower’s observation that “an intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows.”
And these haters of long words –sesquipedalophobiacs — acknowledge Thomas Jefferson’s point that “the most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
Interface in the Privacy of Your Own Home
That’s why the most effective leaders know they should interface, exacerbate and obfuscate in the privacy of their own homes —not from the podium. They heed the example of President Abraham Lincoln’s 272-word Gettysburg address. Lincoln used more than twice as many single-syllable words as multi-syllable words to deliver one of the most memorable speeches in history. Clearly. Simply. Memorably.
Indeed, the most effective leaders seek to demystify, decode and decipher new concepts and ideas. They heed anthropologist Margaret Mead’s admonition to scientists and educators:
“If one cannot state a matter clearly enough so that even an intelligent 12-year old can understand it, one should remain within the cloistered walls of the university and laboratory until one gets a better grasp of one’s subject matter.”
Take the concept of ergonomics, the ‘science of adapting working conditions to the worker,” according to the dictionary. But an effective leader would take that concept and personalize it, humanize it and breathe life into it like the leader at an auto manufacturer who defined ergonomics simply and meaningfully as “a Latin term for ‘you know it would be kind of dumb to put that knob over there.’’
Likewise in a scene from The Wizard of Oz, the Wizard humbles himself to become more personable, more caring, more real by stumbling over a big word and finally choosing a simple word. The Wizard says to the Lion that back where I come from “we have men who do nothing but good deeds. They are called PH….da! Good Deed Doers.”
The Wizard knows, like all effective goal-setters, that even if he could say “philanthropist” his “lip service” wouldn’t be as powerful or meaningful as puckering his lips for a KISS (Keeping It Said Simply) and planting that more human, more personal spell on his listeners.
Use simple words to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
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