What to say- What Not to say when you Lead

What to say- What Not to say when you Lead

 By Somali K Chakrabarti

“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” ~Dorothy Nevill


“Isn’t it surprising how many things, if not said immediately, seem not worth saying ten minutes from now?” ~Arnot L. Sheppard, Jr.     


Life presents us with numerous situations when we have to take a call between what we should say, when, and what is better kept to ourselves.

The fine balance between seizing the opportunity to say the right things at the right moment and to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment is what differentiates a clear-minded person from a blabbermouth.


Balancing Communication as a Leader

A quality that is consistent among all good leaders is their ability to communicate well.

Communication does not refer to oratorical skills alone. It also means the ability to decide what is to be said, to whom, how it is to be said, and what is NOT to be said.

In both corporate world and in the political arena, we come across garrulous leaders who often make inane statements when those are least required, and also the ones who do not speak up even when needed. No prizes for guessing!

I agree that Leadership does not entail that you explain every thought, action or position of yours. If you are in a habit of explaining every action of yours, it may sometimes be perceived as a lack of confidence or may result in a lack of agility. But, at the same time, you are expected to be transparent to your people.

Hence, arises the need for balancing communication as a leader.

Leader speak

As a leader you can neither be a Black-box that absorbs all information and shares none, nor can you be a Conduit that passes on all your problems to the team.


Being Transparent vs Withholding Information

So what are the situations in which you need to be transparent vs the situations where you need to withhold information? Let’s have a look:

Being Transparent is best when:

Information shared will help people to improve their skills or perform better.

Your team has achieved something remarkable. Sharing success stories and passing on the laurels is a great way to boost morale.

You are trying out something new. Your need to help people to understand the objectives, what are your expectations from each of them, and how their actions will align with your overall objectives.

You are doing something in a way that deviates sharply from your normal way of action.

You have to correct a misconception or make your stand clear on an issue.

You have to disagree (preferably without ruffling feathers).

The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes. ~ Tony Blair  [Tweet this]


Consider withholding if:

It amounts to micro management, when dealing with people with high skill levels.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”  ~ George S. Patton   [Tweet this]

Your remarks hint at someone’s limitation that could lead to discrimination, or could be taken as inflammatory.

Your explanation does not add value to the listener and may be perceived as unnecessary justification.

In crisis situation when quick action is needed.

You have to criticize someone, do it in private.

Information in consideration is confidential, privileged or could be a rumor.

This, by no means, is an exhaustive list.

Which point in the list can you relate with ? What are the other things in your opinion that a leader should not say?


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  • nice article… its a good post showing the use of balanced communication… what we speak matters a lot… 🙂

  • What we say is as important as how we say it and when we say it. Similarly, what we communicate by not saying something (or anything) is also equally important.

    Congratulations for a very lucid article.

  • Truly said Somali. Most people think that communication and leadership is all about talking but there is so much more value we can create when we listen and act accordingly. Like Dale carnegie said, we can get more people interested in us by being interested in them than merely talking about us..

  • Good post Somali. How are you? Have a great day dear.😀

  • It’s an amazing post. I think social skills are very important in both professional and personal life, one we lack very much these days.

  • bhudeb chakrabarti

    June 9, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    A leader needs to develop human relations skill along with conceptual and technical skills .
    A very useful .post .

  • Really amazing & gr8 writing…WHat to say ?at which moment ? & how immediately ? are the most deciding factors while “proposing” someone..!!!

  • Thanks for sharing. Very nice post.. 🙂

  • Communications is the soul of leadership. Somali you have very nicely presented a comprehensive list of dos and dont’s for effective communication. People also need to constantly work on their communication skills. It is not a one time exercise. Even after knowing the benefits and the dos and donts…many of us falter in the heat of moment. May Lord save us from the devil called anger!

    • Thanks for stopping by Bushra. You’ve rightly pointed out that communication i not a one -time exercise, but something that we must keep in mind on an ongoing basis. Always, good to remind ourselves from time to time.
      Have a nice day . 🙂

  • You are a master in this subject. 🙂
    I find it a kind of positive counseling.

  • Well thoughtful points, Somali. Most of the times we know what to say and what not to say but fail to do so when needed. Leadership is not knowledge but actualization.

  • A pretty detailed and excellent post, I must say. Indeed this looks to be a very studied. Only a leader can write this 🙂

  • A great post, Somali. Couldn’t agree more with the quotes you have cited here. Communication plays a very important role in leadership. One wrong word- the reputation and respect can go waste.Not only that, it demotivates others. You’ve amazingly put in words the thoughts of a true leader.

  • The most important point is to appreciate people, even for small achievements (small is a relative term). I am among few people who would snub you and never appreciate your qualities…such a demoralizer.

    • Very true. Thanks for adding on the small achievements here, We often take these little things for granted and forget to appreciate people for the good things they do, however small those might be. But then those small doses of praise go a long way in boosting confidence and morale.

  • What we say matters a lot, and we gain that by experience … very well presented post.

  • Very true, Somali.
    It’s a fine balance indeed! Wrong words can prove costly 🙂

  • Good article on leadership, Somali. Listening skills are important in a communication.Vinay has already highlighted above so I shall not go in detail.

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