15+ Common Idioms about Leadership in English

Learn useful idioms about leadership in English with meaning and examples.

List of idioms about leadership.

(The) Man

  • 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

… idioms about leadership… 

Big Picture

  • 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.”

Da Man

  • 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.

On Point

  • 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.

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