I’m on a personal mission to change the culture by changing the language.
As I mentioned in How to Lead with your Paint Clothes on, most of the language we’re used to using in leadership and corporate culture (and, to be frank, even in communities, churches, etc.) is based on old paradigms. Because these cultures were formed by men in a patriarchal society, we adopted language that was comfortable for them. That language is the language of sports, warfare, and the industrial revolution. (Some of you have heard me on this soap box before, I’m sure.)
Even if our work has nothing to do with these three things, and we’d be much better off building communities than teams, we still talk about competitive advantages, officers-in-charge, high performance, and targets. I’ve worked in government and non-profits where competition and production are not important, and yet we still use the same language. Even in the softer side of leadership where we’re working on personal development, we still hire “coaches” to help us. Language gets so embedded in our culture we don’t even recognize how it shapes what we do.
Last week, the university where I teach asked if I’d want to teach a social media workshop called “Using Social Media to Gain Competitive Advantage”. Well yes, I responded, I’d be happy to teach a social media workshop, BUT I’m not interested in one with that title. If I teach it, the words “competitive advantage” won’t be part of it.
In my experience, social media is about relationships and COLLABORATION, not competition. You get an advantage not by competing with other people but by building relationships with them. That’s the only way I’d know how to teach the course.
Fortunately, I work with good administration who are open to my ideas, and so they changed the title to “Tools for Social Media Visibility”. I can live with that.
It might seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but we have to start somewhere. If we want to see more feminine wisdom in our leadership, we have to walk the talk and talk the walk. Changing language CAN change culture.