Spelling Matters

At its core, a leader’s job is to convince people to willingly do stuff. (By contrast, prison guards are paid to convince people to do stuff against their will–which do you have at your company?)

To be successful at his or her job, a leader only has one legitimate tool: Communication. Everything else is gimmicks or props to help with that single tool.

Martin Luther King, Jr. never carried a gun or used a hammer. He moved the world with the power of his words and nothing more. Same with John F. Kennedy. Same with Gandhi. Same with Carl Sagan, Hedy Lamarr, Mother Theresa, and nearly every other leader you can think of.

Yet… so many leaders neglect the only tool they have. I see countless emails with spelling errors from people expecting to, hoping to, or actually charged with leading others.

Spelling matters. Grammar matters. The power of a leader is not in their title. Neither Gandhi nor Martin Luther King, Jr. were appointed “Manager of Peaceful Relations”. The only title most people knew Hedy Lamarr by was “actress” though she was one of the most brilliant inventors of her time. A leader’s power and influence comes not from a title but from what they speak and write.

You could argue a leader’s power and influence also comes from what they do (their actions) but I assert if a leader’s speaking and writing is in alignment, his actions will automatically align with those values. Show me a sloppy speaker who leads by action alone and I will show you a comic book hero, like Batman. A real-world true leader has one core tool–communication. Everything else stems from that. Her actions are only as good as how well she professes to use them (both to herself and others).

Of course, no one is perfect but if you are hoping to lead others using the one tool you have and you do not know the difference between “there”, “they’re”, and “their”, or “to”, “two”, and “too”, and  you are too lazy to learn, then you are openly displaying your incompetence at leading… and other people see it.

You may not think spelling names correctly is a big deal or a few typos in an email is acceptable because you are busy. Consider instead that every typo, misspelling, grammar faux pas, and run-on sentence is a signal to the person who caught it that you do not know what you are doing. Spelling matters. Grammar matters.

If you are leading, or want to lead effectively, take the time to proof-read your messages. Use spell-check. Look up words you are unsure of. Learn the nuance of language (or at least the basic construction of sentences). Practice being precise in your writing and speaking, which will lead to precision in thinking, and thus to precision in action.

Precision with spelling and grammar leads to precision everywhere. Sloppiness in your writing and speaking leads to sloppiness everywhere.

Alternatively, if you prefer your career path to ultimately end at the tip of a fast-food chain’s spatula, than dont worry about you’re speling and grammer and you could end up their!