15+ Common Phrases & Idioms about Leadership in English

Leadership Idioms & Phrases! Learn common expressions and idioms about leadership in English with meaning, ESL printable worksheet, video lesson and example sentences.

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Leadership Idioms & Phrases

List of 19 Phrases and Idioms about Leadership

  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 (UK)
  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 (Slang)
  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

Expressions & Idioms about Leadership with Meaning and Examples

Examples of phrases and 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 (UK)

  • 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 was 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.

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 afternoon. 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 (Slang)

  • Meaning: An accomplished or skilful 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 lit 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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15+ Common Idioms about Leadership in English

Last Updated on March 19, 2021

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