On several occasions when teaching, I’ve noted the difference between buzzwords and leadership. In fact, I think that a key facet of leadership is knowing the difference between a strategy and a collection of buzzwords. In the corporate world, there are a multitude of buzzwords (and phrases) that need to fall out of existence. And, yes, I’m an offending party on several of these.
- Thinking outside of the box
- Let’s talk offline
- Deep dive
- Come-to-Jesus moment
The list could go on and on. For those who lead in the church, we have a completely other set of buzzwords. The sad thing is that many of the words have an important meaning. Nevertheless, they have become junk-drawer terms that are applied to everything and often come to mean nothing. A short list would be:
A few of these terms are important to me. They might be important to you. And, yes, I just put “Gospel” on the list. The reason is not that the biblical term has lost its meaning but that it has been so widely applied that others have lost a sense of its meaning. The three questions I have are simple: “When you use that term, what do you mean?” and “Do the people listening to you understand what you are saying?” and “Do they now understand enough to follow where you are leading?” It is a lesson that was driven home for me when I recently traveled to teach at the Kiev Theological Seminary. When leading, we must know these facts.
- Just because you speak does not mean that they heard you.
- Just because they nodded their heads in affirmation does not mean they understand.
- Just because they said they understand does not mean that they agree.
- Just because they agree does not mean that they will do it.
So, as I consider the power and the bane of buzzwords, I would offer these 10 thoughts.
- Buzzwords begin as a rallying cry and end as words too broadly applied. Leadership constantly looks for fresh ways to keep the movement alive.
- Buzzwords are a poor substitute for the real content. Leadership offers a vocabulary of meaningful dialogue.
- Buzzwords give a false sense of momentum when stagnation is the reality. Leadership identifies stagnation and tackles it.
- Buzzwords are an easy way to say nothing when those who follow you need to hear something. Leadership shows the willingness to have the difficult conversations.
- Buzzwords kill the meaning of a movement. Leadership continues to give life to a movement.
- Buzzwords are the escape hatch for the speaker who is unprepared. Leadership finds a way to be the most prepared person in the movement.
- Buzzwords provide a facade of being knowledgeable. Leadership actually learns.
- Buzzwords give false hope of a possible future. Leadership tells a beautiful and detailed story of what can be.
- Buzzwords are big ideas boiled down to the lowest common denominator of thought. Leadership offers everyone a way to access the big ideas and bring understanding to them.
- Buzzwords make important words eventually seem disposable. Leadership redeems the important meaning of words and phrases.