top of page

Stakeholders? Or Cooperators & Collaborators? Your Word Choice Matters!

Kind Leaders know that their words and actions create culture! And that choosing those words deliberately and kindly is of the utmost importance!

How deliberately do you think about the words that you are using?

When you are wearing your Leader Hat, it's imperative that you choose your words deliberately and kindly, both because your words and actions are creating the culture of your organization, and because those you follow will "hang on" and parrot your words!

Most people don't pay much attention to the words they are using. They use words because they’re commonly known and used and they’ve heard them from leaders in their organization, the community or politics.

A common word I hear in used by leaders and other people in organizations all the time is “stakeholder”. It's used to describe people who might have a say, an opinion or be involved with a process or project.

Whenever I hear the word “stakeholder” I get a vivid picture in my mind of a person (usually a large burly man) with a big wooden stake planted firmly in the ground, legs apart and arms crossed, refusing to move and ready to defend their patch of turf! Maybe you get a similar picture!

And here’s the problem with that! If you start out calling people you are getting together to work together on a project or solve a problem, “stakeholders”, your word choice is already creating a certain picture in your - and their - minds! And it’s not a picture of people being open to others' ideas and suggestions! A picture of people sharing and creating together to make something better for all. It’s a picture of people getting ready to dig in their heels...or for a fight!

What if, instead, when you are wearing your Leader Hat, you choose to use the word “cooperator”…or “collaborator”? That makes a picture in my mind of people standing side by side, arm-in-arm, working together for the greater good!

Can you imagine the difference in culture that would be created if leaders invited cooperators and collaborators to work on projects and problem-solving, not "stakeholders"? It would make a huge, positive difference about how people saw, and felt, about those who they were working together with…and themselves! And it would create a culture in which people were open to others' ideas, looked forward to working together and understood that the best ideas and solutions come when we cooperate and collaborate!

What other common business words can you think of that should be "retired" from Kind Leaders' vocabularies? And what others should be added?

33 views6 comments


Reading this one gives me cause for pause. I agree that language is so important. The word collaborators has negative connotations for me and even cooperators does too. I hâte stakeholders the most. But maybe it is about sharing the space with distributes leadership and inviting everyone to be co-leads. Thoughts everyone?

Karyn Ross
Karyn Ross
May 04, 2023
Replying to

Thank you too!

bottom of page