Which World & Business Leaders Have The Best Vocabulary?

Which World & Business Leaders Have The Best Vocabulary?

As a leader it’s important to have great ideas, but it’s just as important to have the communication skills to get people to buy into those ideas. There’s lots of ways to achieve this, but having a good enough vocabulary to get your message across is certainly important.

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But is that the case for the top leaders around the world? After four years of President Trump’s occasionally quirky use of the English language, will we see a big difference in the vocabulary used by his successor President-Elect Biden? A study by BusinessFinancing.co.uk suggests that we will - but not necessarily the way you might have thought.

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Vocabularies Fit For Presidents?

They looked at the words used by both Donald Trump and Joe Biden during the election campaign and found that it was actually Trump who used the largest number of unique words. The outgoing president used 2,193 different words in his campaign speeches, while the incoming one only used 1,990.

When it came to what type of words they both used, the results were surprisingly close, with both using 23% positive words, while Trump used more negative words than Biden, but not by a lot - 18% to 15%. The other main difference was when it comes to words related to fear, with Trump using 13% of these, compared to 9% for Biden.

So, why Trump might not go down in history as one of America’s great orators, clearly he isn’t lacking in vocabulary to find the words he wants to use, and even when he does, he can just make them up, which certainly helps him use ‘unique’ words.

Interestingly, Biden’s most-used word in his election speeches was ‘President’, while Trump’s most-used word was ‘Joe’.

Vocabulary In The World Of Business

In the political world it’s often not what you say but how you say it, and there’s no doubt that President Trump was excellent at engaging his base with his speeches. But what about the world of business, where words can have real impact, both positive and negative - on the bottom line?

The study also looked at 10,000 words from the speeches of 50 business leaders around the world to see which had the biggest vocabulary. Coming out on top was a man not often known for what he says in public, but what others say - or write - on his behalf.

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch had the most unique words, even ahead of Donald Trump, with 2,256 used in his speeches. The Fox mogul’s results were actually 50% larger than those of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who is admittedly also not known for his speeches.

It’s not the case that Silicon Valley types are also far down the list, though, with Apple CEO Tim Cook coming in second behind Murdoch on 2,209. Cook’s speeches at product launches are certainly important for Apple’s business, and he’s had a tough act to follow in the footsteps of Steve Jobs.

Positive Or Negative?

We’ve already seen how the election speeches of Presidents Trump and Biden were fairly closely-matched on positivity and negativity, but how does this play out across the business leaders? You might expect their speeches to be more overwhelmingly positive as they look to sell their companies as being hugely successful and influential, but that’s not always the case.

The study used the NRC Word-Emotion Association Lexicon to calculate the percentage of the words used that are positive, negative, and ones that are associated with anger, anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise and trust.

Mike Bloomberg has had a foot in both the business and political worlds, so perhaps it’s not a shock to see him as the business leader with the highest proportion of negative words at 14.85% which is still lower than both of the Presidential candidates.

One interesting finding in the study is the difference in the amount of positivity and negativity from male and female business leaders. The top four positive leaders were all women, with former U.S. Chairman and CEO of KPMG Lynne Doughtie coming out on top with an impressive 34.92%, followed by Nancy McKrinsty, Mary Dillon and Debra Cafaro

However, all of the top ten users of negative words were men, with Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Lloyd Blankfien of Goldman Sachs making up the rest of the top five after Trump, Biden and Bloomberg. Charles Koch and Marc Benioff were the men who used the most positive words.

One in every three words spoken by Doughtie in her speeches was positive, and even though she came 46th in the vocabulary study with just 1,484 words used, it’s clear that positivity is high up on her agenda.

What we say and how we say it is clearly important, and it’s interesting to see which leaders have the largest vocabulary and what type of emotions they choose to portray through their choice of words. Why not have a look at the full list and see if there are any more surprises?

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Jacob Wolinsky is the founder of ValueWalk.com, a popular value investing and hedge fund focused investment website. Jacob worked as an equity analyst first at a micro-cap focused private equity firm, followed by a stint at a smid cap focused research shop. Jacob lives with his wife and four kids in Passaic NJ. - Email: jacob(at)www.valuewalk.com - Twitter username: JacobWolinsky - Full Disclosure: I do not purchase any equities anymore to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest and because at times I may receive grey areas of insider information. I have a few existing holdings from years ago, but I have sold off most of the equities and now only purchase mutual funds and some ETFs. I also own a few grams of Gold and Silver
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