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Publisher's Summary

Wall Street Journal best seller

From the acclaimed author of Turn the Ship Around!, former US Navy Captain David Marquet, comes a radical new playbook for empowering your team to make better decisions and take greater ownership.

You might imagine that an effective leader is someone who makes quick, intelligent decisions, gives inspiring speeches, and issues clear orders to their team so they can execute a plan to achieve your organization's goals. Unfortunately, David Marquet argues, that's an outdated model of leadership that just doesn't work anymore.

As a leader in today's networked, information-dense business climate, you don't have full visibility into your organization or the ground reality of your operating environment. In order to harness the eyes, ears, and minds of your people, you need to foster a climate of collaborative experimentation that encourages people to speak up when they notice problems and work together to identify and test solutions.

Too many leaders fall in love with the sound of their own voice, and wind up dictating plans and digging in their heels when problems begin to emerge. Even when you want to be a more collaborative leader, you can undermine your own efforts by defaulting to command-and-control language we've inherited from the industrial era.

It's time to ditch the industrial age playbook of leadership. In Leadership is Language, you'll learn how choosing your words can dramatically improve decision-making and execution on your team. Marquet outlines six plays for all leaders, anchored in how you use language:

  • Control the clock, don't obey the clock: Pre-plan decision points and give your people the tools they need to hit pause on a plan of action if they notice something wrong.
  • Collaborate, don't coerce: As the leader, you should be the last one to offer your opinion. Rather than locking your team into binary responses ("Is this a good plan?"), allow them to answer on a scale ("How confident are you about this plan?")
  • Commit, don't comply: Rather than expect your team to comply with specific directions, explain your overall goals, and get their commitment to achieving it one piece at a time.
  • Complete, not continue: If every day feels like a repetition of the last, you're doing something wrong. Articulate concrete plans with a start and end date to align your team.
  • Improve, don't prove: Ask your people to improve on plans and processes, rather than prove that they can meet fixed goals or deadlines. You'll face fewer cut corners and better long-term results.
  • Connect, don't conform: Flatten hierarchies in your organization and connect with your people to encourage them to contribute to decision-making.

In his last book, Turn the Ship Around!, Marquet told the incredible story of abandoning command-and-control leadership on his submarine and empowering his crew to turn the worst performing submarine to the best performer in the fleet. Now, with Leadership is Language he gives businesspeople the tools they need to achieve such transformational leadership in their organizations. 

©2020 L. David Marquet (P)2020 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

“Full of compelling advice on how to lead more effectively by choosing your words more wisely.” (Adam Grant, author of Originals and Give and Take, and host of the TED podcast WorkLife)

“Leaders have to make difficult decisions every day under conditions of uncertainty. How can they get the best information and ideas from their people to help them decide? Leadership is Language is a refreshing, actionable framework that helps you navigate uncertainty and tackle thorny problems by bringing out the best in your people.” (Annie Duke, author of Thinking in Bets)

“In Turn The Ship Around, Marquet challenged us to change the way we lead; Now, in Leadership is Language, he challenges us to change the way we talk as leaders - dropping the archaic language of command and control and learning the language of creativity, collaboration, and commitment.” (Liz Wiseman, author of Multipliers)

What listeners say about Leadership Is Language

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Impactful and Important

I suspect that every seasoned leader knows they can get the answer they want, depending on how they frame the question, but not every leader recognizes what that means, and when they are shaping answers without intent. This book provides a really strong playbook for the language of team engagement. Highly recommend. Only star off the performance because I felt like the El Faro tragedy was dealt with fairly coldly considering the magnitude of the tragedy.

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Painfully repetitive

This book could probably be less than an hour long if the author didn't keep repeating himself using slightly different words.
Additionally, many of the examples used are not thoroughly analyzed and are instead examined just enough support the authors claims. This is sloppy and superficial writing.
If you are really interested in the topic, I would recommend finding a good synopsis of the book that will give you the key points in a few minutes and save yourself several painful hours of listening to this.

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words matter

loved it. had great narration by the author super applicable for my work great theory to practice ratio

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  • Julia
  • 2020-02-13

Wow what I did not know!

Did you know that the wolf pack idea is exactly how we get our data about human stress, using chimps? Random chimps shoved together and then put in different groups, just the same as we got our data on alpha wolves. I am so glad that I read a book pointing this out, how we aren't caged chimps even when we live inside of submarines.

Enjoy a book on how people actually think, with information on how we got our (wrong) ideas that may blow your mind.

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  • Classik
  • 2020-09-01

The Words We Need to Lead

Marquet, in this book, gives leaders in any organization the words and phrases to bring about the culture he describes in Turn the Ship Around. If you’ve struggled, like I have, in implementing Turn the Ship Around, this is the guidebook you’ve been looking for!

I love Marquet’s enthusiasm in narrating his own book.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Renee
  • 2020-03-09

New playbook is essential for business leaders

Generation after generation of leaders are stuck in the old playbook and must adapt to survive as a leader in the digital world full of knowledge workers and thinkers. I ordered the book Friday but could not wait to start so I also started the audio version Friday night. The forward grabbed my attention and I could not stop listening until the end of the book and I was texting snippets to some of my superiors and peers throughout. Now I am re-listening to the audio for better recall while I wait for the book to arrive. This is the best leadership book ever and I have been a leader for over 35 years. Thank you for sharing this valuable information. My agile coach mentioned he had just read the book and was commenting about how good it was so I got it. So thankful for this . I feel more equipped to continue with our organizational transformation. Renee

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  • Kirk
  • 2021-03-09

loved it

loved it so much I bought the hard copy too, to take notes in.

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  • Timothy J. Sipe
  • 2021-06-06

Great Leadership Instruction

I greatly enjoyed this book. It was thoughtful and well research and tied many threads together such as lean management, agile software development, positive psychology, and many practical real world use cases, particularly the very engaging core case with the sunken Farro ship and language and behavior leading up to it.

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  • John Cross
  • 2021-05-29

interesting take on Leadership

In Leadership and all we do our words matter, be aware of this before speaking

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  • MadBB
  • 2021-02-27

Avoid

The author mostly talked in circles and didn't provide very much new and insightful information. Further, the author's speaking style was hard to listen to. He overemphasized words like "I" in the middle of the sentence but then really trails off at the end of the sentence and you can't understand the last word or two of that sentence. I have listened to at least 100 audio books over the years, and this was one of the very few I decided to not finish.

There are many better options.

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  • Neal caleb burks
  • 2021-02-23

Life altering guidance from the leader of a genera

I love this book!!!!! Leadership masterclass! This is a must read for anyone in a leadership role!!!

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  • Shubh
  • 2021-02-05

High applicability content!

You read books and move on but this one has nuggets that can be taken and applied.
Great book for teams and organizations.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-01-13

A must for any manager!

I love the metaphor of the play book and the examples of how they can play out in a diverse set of working environments.