Over and over, experts remind us that passivity is a quality of poor leadership. We're trained to seek out leaders with conviction, who speak and act directly, and never hedge their responsibilities. And while you may be a leader who does all those things, it's possible that your speech pattern doesn't reflect just how assertive and deliberate you are. Passive voice is the culprit.
"We're all busy trying to accomplish a million things at our jobs every day. No one has time to ask a bunch of questions just to get to the heart of the matter. Let's all just start actively speaking so we can learn from our mistakes, do a better job next time and move on," writes Janine Popick, CEO of VerticalResponse, in an Inc. Magazine blog.
In a corporate setting, a variety of moving parts can influence outcomes and decisions, and passive voice is an easy way inadvertently to deflect ownership. Imagine the cancelation of a forthcoming project review:
"The review has been canceled."
This sentence might sound like something a person would naturally say in conversation, or draft in an email. But think of the questions it leaves: Who canceled the review, and why? And even: Is this speaker covering for someone? Is he covering for himself? While not a bad sentence, passive voice can make your communication style sound subtly obfuscating or limp. It's more informative to give the recipient of that information an active subject:
"I canceled the review."
Aspiring leaders have a tendency to redirect accountability to the ether, as if disruptive news is something that just happens. And while it may be par for the course in a busy office, you're more likely to earn your coworkers' respect if the language you use to communicate responsibility doesn't mince words.