Leadership requires dealing with people, and people are complex, messy, and sometimes difficult. Everyone has an inner voice; most of us have whole committees of voices. I have committees and sub-committees screaming for attention.
Let’s be candid: you and I sometimes think of things we’d love to say but know we shouldn’t. It will feel great for about 24 seconds and then we’ll regret it for a long time. Mature leaders recognize they have some immature thoughts and voices in their head.
You’ll be encouraged to know other leaders struggle with this problem. Here are some things I wish I could have said just in the past year:
“Do you hear yourself when you talk? In a different setting this would be entertaining.”
“Sorry you don’t like this decision that affects you in a minor way. What you don’t know is that I already kept your job and training budget intact when X person suggested we let you go.”
“You missed getting a Needs Improvement rating (for the 2nd year running) by this much.”
“Are you saying this because you want to get fired?”
“You’re a hypocrite.”
“I think you prefer telling yourself that lie because the truth is too painful to acknowledge. Am I right?”
“If you could see things in the bigger picture you’d realize you’re arguing about a small matter and wasting my time.”
“Back away, little man, before you regret starting this conversation.”
“Are you asking a question or just filling the air with a rant?”
“I’m really, really tired.”
“I know that there will always be problems to solve, but can I get better problems?”
“I’m really not sure how you got promoted to this level.”
“Why is this my problem now?”
“Thanks for the insincere praise. Now, what do you want?”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I don’t care.”
I suspect you could add others.
These would be expensively bad words to verbalize. By writing these out I seek to reduce their power and attractiveness. I see them for the juvenile, immature, unhelpful words that they are.