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I had the pleasure of interviewing L. David Marquet, best-selling author of Leadership is Language and former nuclear submarine commander.
Mo prompts David about the big idea do he has around using the language of leadership to build client relationships:
"The big idea, the hypothesis behind the book, is the language that we use today, is the same language that we inherited from our parents who inherited from their parents and so on. So basically, it’s an industrial age language. In the past, language does adapt and change as society adapts and changes, but the changes in society and work, have been relatively slow. Language changes over a two, three generational timespan and had been able to keep up. Now, work and society has been changing more rapidly than languages, so we need to force the language into the new approach. The problem is, we would hear teams talking, in an industrial age way. I would hear myself using industrial age phrases. When I deliberately and expressly desired not to use industrial age phrases, then it felt like, “Why am I talking this way?” Why do I say for example, “Will that work? Are you sure?” It narrows the range of options, reduces thinking, and it makes it harder for someone to say that they aren’t sure… We looked at teams and we looked at languages and you are right. It is all very internally focused, but I think there is a lesson when you got externally. The underlying theme behind the industrial age in terms of human connections is called conform. We fit into our hierarchical position. Trying to disrupt that hierarchy, is met with fraud. For example, this was a couple of years ago. my son was interested in a job with foreign service and he happened to be walking through a government office where a senior foreign service officer was there. He recognized him from a brief meeting the year prior. He’s walking through as a prospective interviewee and he goes into the office. He was telling me this afterwards and I got a weird look from him and I said, “Well you’re violating this hierarchy. You don’t just walk into an office.” The thing is we conform. The antidote to conform is connect. What we need to do is retrain ourselves to not try and conform but to connect. We establish power differences, power gradients, trappings of power, and we make thicker carpets for the CEO than the rest of the people in a bigger office. All these trappings to create a hierarchical structure where we all know where we sit on the pecking order, and it’s not the best for humans for thinking. It’s not the best for humans for their health to say, “Well you’re lower on the hierarchy than me. I think we develop these things with our clients and we have to overcome that language and use connect language.
Dive deeper into the conversation with L. David Marquet here.
The underlying theme of the industrial age in terms of human connections was conformity, where disrupting the hierarchy typically caused problems. We need to retrain ourselves to connect instead of conform and we do that through language.
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