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“We” is the language of leadership

Kawhi Leonard doesn’t say very much, but when he does, he tends to focus the discussion less on himself and more on the achievements of the Toronto Raptors as a whole. He has said many times before in interviews that he doesn’t aspire to be the best player on the team; he aspires to win championships. It’s not about him. It’s about the team. And it’s hard not to respect that kind of humility.

One the things that I try to be aware of in business and in life is how I use first-person singular pronouns (such as “I”) and first-person plural pronouns (such as “we”). The subtleties of language are important and there’s lots of research out there on this topic. Some have even tracked Jeff Bezos’ use of “I” and “we” in Amazon’s annual shareholder letters over time.

Harvard Business Review also argued a few years ago that “we” is the language of leadership because it tells you where someone is focusing their attention. Studies suggest that when people are self-aware or insecure they naturally tend to use more first-person singular pronouns — they turn inward. Conversely, using pronouns such as “we”, “us”, or “you” suggest an outward focus or a focus on other people’s thoughts, opinions, and contributions.

Of course, when you write a personal blog like this one, you naturally end up with a lot of “I.” But when I write about broader topics, such as city building or the housing market, I do try and shift the focus. These are our cities. These are our buildings, streets, and public spaces. We’re in this together. And I aspire to get even better at “we.”

Oh, and go Raptors!


  1. Janet Donnelly

    Great Blog Brandon. I also noticed Leonard’s humility. This is a great quality! Narcissistic personalities are extremely distasteful!


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