Leadership Euphemism Bingo

As 2019 recedes from our memories and the yawning chasm of 2020 opens up before us, it’s timely to reflect on the characteristics of the leaders we have met in the last year and begin to wonder about who we will encounter at the beginning of a new decade. Past experience suggests that much will be the same. Good leadership will still be a joy and many with whom we work will quickly uncover the simple truths of how to lead well. But others will continue to regard bad behaviour and toxic personality traits as mere quirks.

One thing that might help the coach or consultant navigate this mine-field of obfuscation is to understand what common descriptions of leaders and their behaviour actually mean. So here is my guide to the top ten leadership euphemisms.

What they say What they mean

Not a ‘people person’

Oblivious to others’ feelings

Leads from the front

Leaves everyone else behind

Prefers the big picture

Has the attention span of a gnat

Does not suffer fools gladly

A short-tempered bully

Cares deeply about the business

Obsessive, has no outside life

Has very high standards

Delegates reluctantly, micro-manages

Really cares about his/her staff

Avoids conflict at all costs

Incredibly clever

Has the emotional intelligence of a fridge

A complex character

Easily triggered, unpredictable, inconsistent

Amazingly talented

A diva, expects others to genuflect

As you go through the coming year, you might listen for these descriptors and gently inquire as to what they actually mean, encouraging less euphemism and more straight-talking. And so long as it does not take your attention away from really getting to know your clients you might quietly tick-off the list, playing a covert game of “leadership euphemism bingo”. But beware: if you complete the list, suddenly shouting “bingo” in the middle of a coaching session or while facilitating a crucial top team meeting can take some explaining.

Image by Carabo Spain from Pixabay

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