Learn useful idioms about leadership in English with meaning and examples.
List of idioms about leadership.
You can jump to any section of this lesson:
- 1 (The) Man
- 2 (To Be at Someone’s) Beck And Call
- 3 (To) Cross All Your T’s And Dot All Your I’s
- 4 A Little From Column A, A Little From Column B
- 5 After The Lord Mayor’S Show
- 6 Ahead Of The Curve
- 7 Big Picture
- 8 Call the Shots
- 9 Changing of the Guard
- 10 Cut Someone Some Slack
- 11 Cut to the Chase
- 12 Da Man
- 13 Light a Fire Under Someone
- 14 Movers and Shakers
- 15 On Point
- 16 Put Someone on the Spot
- 17 Rake Someone Over the Coals
- 18 The Powers That Be
- 19 Too Many Chiefs and Not Enough Indians
- Meaning: The boss; authority in general
- Example: Did you know our old Indonesian teacher is working for the American military? I wonder how she likes working for The Man.
(To Be at Someone’s) Beck And Call
- Meaning: To be under someone’s total command, to be forced to fulfill someone’s orders or whims
- Example: I spent three years at the boss’s beck and call. At least he paid me well.
(To) Cross All Your T’s And Dot All Your I’s
- Meaning: To take care of every detail, including the minor ones
- Example: Make sure your presentation is ready to go tomorrow. I want you to cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s.
A Little From Column A, A Little From Column B
- Meaning: A course of action drawing on several different ideas or possibilities
- Example: You don’t need to choose a single management philosophy. Some of the best managers take a little from column A, a little from column B.
After The Lord Mayor’S Show
- Meaning: Anticlimactic; occurring after something impressive
- Example: The tournament finals were OK, but they had the feeling of being after the Lord Mayor’s show – the big upset in the semifinals were all anyone was talking about.
Ahead Of The Curve
- Meaning: Offering ideas not yet in general circulation; highly creative
- Example: Indonesia has a group of young, creative mayors who are ahead of the curve in terms of urban management.
Useful idioms about leadership in English
… idioms about leadership…
- Meaning: A wide perspective; a broad view of something
- Example: Don’t get bogged down in the details. Keep the big picture in mind.
Call the Shots
- Meaning: Make the important decisions in an organization
- Example: There are all kinds of meetings where policy is discussed, but it’s really Bob who calls the shots around here.
Changing of the Guard
- Meaning: A change in leadership at an organization
- Example: There’s been a changing of the guard at Volkswagen since the company was hurt by a scandal over measurement of emissions.
Cut Someone Some Slack
- Meaning: Avoid treating someone strictly or severely
- Example: Reynaldo has been on the job for only two weeks. It’s natural that he would make mistakes. Cut him some slack.
Cut to the Chase
- Meaning: Get to the point; explain the most important part of something quickly; skip the preliminaries
- Example: I have three meetings later this afteroon. I can listen to your proposal, but you need to cut to the chase.
Note: This expression refers to movies. “Cut to the chase” means “remove material coming before the exciting chase scene.”
- Meaning: An accomplished or skillful person. Generally used in the compliment – “You da man!”
- Example: I made 20 straight foul shots. Who da man? – You da man!
Note: This is of African American origin and is very colloquial. The idiom “The Man” (a powerful individual, a ruler) is somewhat different.
Light a Fire Under Someone
- Meaning: Inspire someone to work very hard
- Example: When the dean threatened to expel me because of my bad grades, that light a fire under me, and I started to study harder.
Movers and Shakers
- Meaning: Influential people, especially in a particular field
- Example: If you’re looking for a tech job, you should go to CES in Las Vegas. All the movers and shakers in consumer electronics will be there.
- Meaning: Good, well done, effective
- Example: Jennifer’s presentation was on point – concise, relevant, and accurate.
Note: “On the ball” is similar.
Put Someone on the Spot
- Meaning: Force someone to answer a question or make a decision immediately
- Example: The boss put me on the spot today and asked me to summarize next year’s budget. I wasn’t really prepared.
Rake Someone Over the Coals
- Meaning: Scold severely
- Example: My boss really raked me over the coals today about being late to work. I need to buy an alarm clock.
The Powers That Be
- Meaning: People in charge, often used when the speaker does not want to identify them.
- Example: You want to schedule your vacation for next month? I’ll check with the powers that be.
Too Many Chiefs and Not Enough Indians
- Meaning: Everyone wants to be a leader, and no one wants to do the actual work
- Example: Everyone wanted credit for the project and tried to take on a supervisory role. So the project never got done. It was too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
Note: This is old-fashioned.