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Leadership is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say -- and What You Don't
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Leadership is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say -- and What You Don't

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  625 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Wall Street Journal Bestseller.
Amazon "Best Business and Leadership" books of 2020

Few of us realize that our language in the workplace inhibits creative problem-solving and escalates uncertainty and stress. In both high-pressure situations and everyday scenarios, in each meeting and email, we have the opportunity to empower our colleagues by using the right words.

In Leader
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 6th 2020 by Portfolio Penguin (first published February 1st 2020)
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Joshua Bowen
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I think this is an important book that looks at a critical leadership behavior: the language leaders use and how they do (and do not) communicate with their people. So many of us have so much to still learn in this area, and I think LDM does a great job of addressing it.

I do feel the “playbook” approach with defined plays is a bit overly-contrived for me, personally, but it didn’t really distract from the message of the book.

I really enjoyed this read. Definitely recommend. Lots of great points
Sri Shivananda
A great book on leadership and the use of the right language to create an environment of inclusion and innovation. I learned about the concept of creating variability in thought, removing anchoring bias, leading with a question, the need to ensure red (mechanical) and blue (thought) work is everyone's realm in terms of participation. The book illustrates its ideas through various great examples and how the industrial revolution might have trained us too much towards Taylorism and how we will nee ...more
Dave Bolton
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked the core message of this book, even if a large part of the book was just re-presenting Agile with different terminology.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read for all

Small shifts in your language with big paybacks! Immediately applicable and usable. For leaders and team members alike. But mostly leaders, or those striving to lead.
Jack Vinson
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Creates a conversation
Longer review on my blog:

The book has some solid concepts around how people use language and how that affects people around them. A lot of it is centered around the idea of moving away from Industrial-euro ways of operating where doing the work is separate from thinking about the work. Marquet defines seven areas of work that need to shift, both on the doing and thinking side. And he provides plenty of examples to help picture the r
May 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Skimmed this one, but found some good nuggets, especially questions to ask and discuss as a team.
Nadya Ichinomiya
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
BRILLIANT (as usual!) We're huge fans of David Marquet and use his work extensively at my job. ...more
Gable Roth
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2-non-fiction
I read this because my employer requested that all employees read it. However, it really is geared toward leaders. I honestly wish my management actually followed the principles in this book. Maybe they are getting there since they are asking everyone to read it.

As far as the book goes. It is relatively engaging and interesting. I didn't hate it but I wouldn't ever read it again either. Also, it is, essentially, a self-help book. Which means that it is repetitive. But it is not as repetitive as
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book is very nice and full of practical suggestions.

Only drawback: it is very American how to manual, I feel like it could have been half as long frankly and the metaphors (blue/red work, the el faro etc ) are maybe a bit too stretched throughout the book.

Length aside I found it a very interesting read.
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Marquet's first book, Turn the Ship Around, is one of the top reading recommendations I've ever received from a colleague, and it's probably the book I most often recommend to other leaders. With that background in mind, I was excited for the release of Leadership is Language. I also had high expectations that this book exceeded. The main point is that our leadership language needs to progress beyond all of its Industrial Age origins to effect a more effective and open mode of communication. Key ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hands on guide on how to tackle the process of Blue work — thinking process and Red work- doing process.

Marquit point the importance of the culture that you need to set up and nurture, so everyone will be included in the progress of thinking - building on his first book 'turn this ship around'.

The book layes out some fundamental language principles for leaders by presenting both academic studies and case studies.

Good summaries and easy layout, makes the book a great read.

Key personal impression
May 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Disappointed, especially after having read his other book "Turn The Ship Around".
The author has the point about engaging the "doers" in the thinking-decision process and some good advice about the languages to use. However his writing style is not persuasive. It's like he's recording the scripts that he's had at different workshops.
he's kind of collecting the verses/ideas/best practices here and there. Then he puts them together but does not have a flow between them.
It seems he's been booked to
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think this book had a lot of good information in it on phrasing though I thought some of the examples got a little stale towards the end. Marquet does great at providing examples to further explain his idea which is always very helpful. This is a leadership book I think though for those decently high up the leadership latter. I'm not sure how well this would work when you're lower level mgmt with minimal decision making power. Something to consider. ...more
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
The author outlines a set of principles and tools to attempt to help leaders inspire their people to take responsibility for their actions and choices and address challenges without waiting to be told what to do by their leaders or supervisors. He highlights how small changes in language can lead to great changes in a team's success and happiness. The bottom line is language does matter, so think before you speak. Worth the time investment to read.
Haur Bin Chua
Oct 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
In today’s knowledge based society, old Industrial Age processes just don’t cut it. The author, a former US Navy captain, introduced the concept of red work (doing) and blue work (thinking) where the existing organisational structure and leadership styles are more suited for the former where reliable, predictable outcomes are the aim. In the red work, variability is the enemy while compliance and performance are ideal where organisation hierarchies are locked in a pyramidal lattice. In today’s f ...more
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Not a review - Jus things I want to remember and implement.

Curiosity is a core value.

Emotional distance, avoiding vulnerability, hierarchical roles - are NOT great leadership.

Language reveals your thinking and can change your thinking.

People need:
autonomy over their work
to be connected to a purpose that matters
to feel part of a team

Ask questions that encourage people to share their thoughts.

Control the clock - not obey the clock
Collaborate not coerce
Commitment (not compliance)
Complete defined go
Mar 04, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This wasn't a straight 1-star, it was more like a 1.5 star. I really like Marquet's "Turn the Ship Around" and was hopeful that this would be another winner. From my perspective, there were some serious flaws in this attempt, however. First, he is speaking from a place of extreme privilege, such that it was hard to take some of what he had to say seriously. Example, "If they (the boss) doesn't listen to what you say, maybe you shouldn't work there because it'll affect your health". This is me pa ...more
Apr 11, 2021 rated it liked it
It's a great book on leadership, it just seems to be at least 20 years late in the game. If you missed the whole agile movement, never heard about Deming, Goldratt, and Lencioni, then it's definitely a book for you!

The author finds the root of all evil in the "industrial era work" that divided the workforce into doers and thinkers. Then proposes a set of rules, which more or else match agile principles, to combine those two groups in a meaningful way. However, this definition of the problem simp
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed the story about Dissent Cards...

Dissent Cards - used before dissent is a regular part of meetings.
5 Blacks per 1 Red card.
If you are given a red card you HAVE to dissent. With a black card you can, but don't have to. But you have to respond to dissent by being curious, not compelling.

Example: 40 men in China sitting at 4 tables of 10. They watch a short video, and then are asked to determine as a table group how many sails the old sailing ship in the video had up. Two minute tim
Andrea Seydel
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
You may be doing something that is inhibiting creative problem solving and escalates uncertainty and stress. Many of us don't realize that our language in the workplace plays a bigger role than we realize. In both high-pressure situations and everyday scenarios, in each meeting and email, we have the opportunity to empower our colleagues by using the right words. OUR LANGUAGE HAS INFLUENCE.

Leadership is Language drives home the idea that leadership is about people, and the author argues that lea
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book helping you understand why language matters, and how to choose your language when communication.

Control the clock, don’t obey the clock.
1. instead of preempting a pause, make a pause possible
2. instead of hoping the team knows what to say, give the pause a name
3. instead of pressing on with redwork, call a pause
4. instead of relying on someone to signal a pause, preplan the next pause

Collaborate, don’t coerce
1. vote first, then discuss
2. be curious, not compelling
3. invite dissent
Jayme Welch
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was young, I could never put my finger on what exactly made a good leader. Personality, knowledge, trust worthiness? A combination of all of these? Maybe. So how do you become a better leader? Learn more, work to improve your personality, and convince people to trust you? There's an easier way and all you have to do is change what you say.
In Leadership Is Language, David makes it so simple to go from using what he calls the Industrial Age playbook where bosses used controlling, coercive l
Sean Mulholland
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
David Marquet’s first book, Turn the Ship Around, is a well-written account of the successes he had in changing the culture of the USS Sante Fe by empowering his crew – and one of my favorite books. In Leadership is Language, Mr.Marquet has done a thorough job in not only showing the many misconceptions that leaders are burdened with, but also in taking the time to explain how the seemingly simple actions of a leader can hinder the engagement and growth of those that they lead.

I have read the b
Magda Krakowiak
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book is filled with really great insights and loads of examples of how the language we use determines the nature of interactions with others. Author also very clearly articulates the benefits of collaborative work and seizing the cumulative wisdom of the team.

Personally I found cumbersome the elaborative reflection on the so called “blue work” and “red work” and found it mentally exhausting every time to recall which one is which going down the chapters, however in the latter part of the bo
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: leadership
The notion that we're operating using Industrial Age methods and words is spot on, and I see it in my workplace almost every day. Although our consequences are less dire, I see the story of El Faro playing out on a number of projects where we're so focused on "red work" to get it done, we don't stop to do "blue work" and ask whether it's worth it to keep going. The book includes a nice selection of "Now that you've read this, here are some situations and how you might apply the techniques" at th ...more
Pratik Holla
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great book with some interesting ideas on how leadership practices for the digital age can be improved. A lot of our hierarchical divisions of work come from the industrial revolution, where the focus was on maximizing productivity, and work was secluded to doing one job at a time to reduce the amount of variability for production. It was also a time where people who made decisions had clearly different roles from the people who did the work (famously espoused by Frederick Taylor). Times have ch ...more
May 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
It is too repetitive « Red » « Blue » all the time. In audible version we listen these words too too much. I try to continue but always same words and repetitive messages too. Maybe someone can count how many times we have « Blue » « Red » a world record in perspective?
Also the same story and old idea (Taylor). Maybe if you are new in management it is a good start. I stopped at the end of chapter 2 because it seems repetitive at infinite, Oh yeah.
I did not find a clue of new practical coming a
Toni Tassani
Dec 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
After "Turn the ship around", sharing the intent-based leadership that worked in a submarine, the author continues with the idea of the importance of language in leadership. He talks about bluework (thinking) and redwork (doing) and uses the metaphor of football playbooks in management. He suggests that the plays that used to work in the Industrial Age don't work anymore.
A lot of ideas on leadership and good references, but the part of language felt disconnected or even forced.
It can be compleme
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How you can get the best from those you work with by changing thee language you use. However, L. David Marquet also presents a way to structure your working practices for a more agile, collaborative (and less hierarchical), learning driven culture. Applicable even if aren't officially a 'leader'. Arguments with sound theories and some great examples from real work environments; how Frozen became the film it was is one of my favourites. ...more
Paul Blay
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional call-out of the industrial-era playbook and how things have changed so dramatically. Having worked for several companies that definitely take their lead from the industrial era playbook, Marquet completely nails the problems that this causes and how it's not suited to the modern world. Marquet develops a modern era playbook in the book and demonstrates how and why it improves outcomes. Excellent. ...more
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David Marquet imagines a ​world where everyone engages and contributes their full intellectual capacity, a place where people are healthier and happier because they have more control over their work–a place where everyone is a leader.

David is the bestselling author of Turn the Ship Around!, the Turn the Ship Around Workbook, and the #1 new release Leadership is Language. Fortune magazine called T

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