When should a leader use "language from the center" and when should he or she use "language from the edge?"

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is best for a leader to use “language from the center” in situations that are rather urgent.  In situations that are less stressful, it is better to use “language from the edge.”

Language from the center is forceful and dominating language.  This is language that puts the leader at the center of the situation and establishes them as the only important player in the situation.  A leader who is speaking from the center will be giving orders and will be acting aggressively.  They will not be leaving any room for others to challenge them or even, really, to discuss and seek consensus. 

By contrast, language from the edge is much more inclusive.  This is language that invites the other people to participate and let their voices be heard.  This language allows the leader to lead by facilitating.  The leader listens to what others have to say, asks questions, summarizes points, and generally tries to get the other people involved in determining a course of action.

Language from the edge is best in most everyday situations.  It builds up one’s subordinates and makes them both happier workers and better workers.  However, there are situations in which there is no time or leeway for seeking consensus.  At these times of crisis, leaders need to speak from the center and take charge so that things can get done.

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