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The Two Most Powerful Words A Leader Can Say

What is the most empowering thing that a leader can say to a follower?

At first, you might think that some form of encouragement would be the answer. Something like, "Great job," "You are amazing," or "Keep up the great work."

But these phrases are merely affirming - they are not empowering.

The role of a great leader is to not simply affirm those he/she leads, it is to empower them to be all that they can be. Elevate Leadership is all about using your influence as a leader to give others opportunity to be all that they can be.

So, what are the two most powerful words that a leader can say?

They might surprise you.

And they are...

Drum roll please...

"You decide."


This might seem simplistic and anti-climatic, but behind these two words lies the most empowering thing a leader can say to his/her followers.

It is in these two words that true empowerment is communicated.

Leaders who use these words fall into a special category called multiplier leaders.

In her book Multipliers, Liz Wiseman makes the case that people benefit the most by being led by a multiplier leader. Here are a a few characteristics of a multiplier leader:

  • Multiplier leaders release big responsibility to those under them

  • Multiplier leaders have great trust for those on their team

  • Multiplier leaders answer less questions than they asked

  • Multiplier leaders give more away than they keep

  • Multiplier leaders want less to flow through them than more

Wiseman went on to describe the opposite of the multiplier leader as being a diminisher leader. Here are a few characteristics of a diminisher leader:

  • Diminisher leaders give limited responsibility to those under them

  • Diminisher leaders have less trust for those on their team

  • Diminisher leaders answer more questions than they ask

  • Diminisher leaders want more to flow through them then less

I agree with Wiseman that it is a multiplier leader who ultimately is more empowering, and those who follow a leader like this are far better because of it.

Multiplier leaders are "you decide" leaders. They empower, they release, and they trust.


After I read Multipliers I looked back on my working life and I realized that the most growth that I experienced was when I was under a leader who embodied the "You decide" philosophy.

I remember one particular time when I was working on a project and I was on a phone call with the leader who was overseeing the project. I was asking a lot of questions and seeking permission regarding many aspects of the project when all of the sudden the leader simply hung up on me.

It was a bit shocking - but as I look back I realize that this leader was not being rude or insulting or trying to demean me. This action was actually one of the most empowering things they could have done.

The hang-up was another way of saying, "You decide." And it communicated even more than that. It said:

  1. I have given you the project to handle

  2. I want you to make the decisions

  3. Include me as little as possible

  4. I trust you

Far too many leaders want the final say on everything, they want everything to run through them, they want to be in control, and in doing so they diminish the leadership, growth, creativity, and the drive of their followers.

In my leadership, I have tried to make it practice to release ownership and responsibility and decision making to those I lead. I try to use the phrase "You decide" more often.

I certainly have not been perfect, but when I have done this I have seen people flourish and grow in tremendous ways.


Leadership is not about controlling or having all the best ideas. Leadership is about releasing others, empowering others, trusting others, and allowing them to have ownership.

It is about using those two powerful words - "You decide."

Sure, people might not do things the exact same way you would, and there are times when a little bit of quality might suffer. But the growth that it brings to those you lead is priceless.

If you want to be a leader who Elevates others to be all that they can be than release more, answer questions less, and trust greatly.

They might not understand right away, but those that follow you will look back and thank you.


On the road to becoming a better leader there are some myths that can derail the journey. I would love to get you a copy of my E-book The Enemies of Influence. To access it, simply Click Here.

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