The Language of Leaders, part 2
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The Language of Leaders, part 2
by: Deb Calvert
In part 1 of this 2-part series, we offered ten tips for being more
persuasive without giving up your authenticity. In this post, as promised,
you’ll find ten techniques for speaking with the authority, conviction and
credibility of a leader.
Leaders paint pictures with their words. They inspire others by
creating a vision of the future, a panoramic of the possibilities. That future
is inclusive, attracting others because they see within it something they want
to be a part of shaping and/or enjoying. The picture a leader paints is bold,
ennobling, and compelling.
Leaders are most effective over the long-term when they themselves believe in
the future state they are describing. So the techniques that embody the language
of leaders are learnable, but they cannot replace your own belief in what you
speak about. The greatest power of words is when they are presented with both
believability and connectivity.
Here are ten techniques for making your own messages more compelling and
better able to connect with others.
- Use analogies and metaphors to compare something new and unfamiliar to
something more readily understood. This makes the newness less uncomfortable,
less far-fetched, and more relatable. Analogies and metaphors paint vivid
pictures that we can immediately see. You can picture Winston Churchill as a
leader when you read his quote “I was not the lion, but it fell to me to give
the lion’s roar.” Even without being in the situation, you can recognize the
power of the mental image Franklin D. Roosevelt evoked when he said “We and all
others who believe in freedom as deeply as we do would rather die on our feet
than live on our knees.” These picture stirred people.
- Speak with declarative statements to show strength and determination. The
word “will” is hardly insignificant when it is preceded by an “I” or a “we.”
John F. Kennedy said “We will go to the moon” instead of “I’d like to go the
moon.” Martin Luther King Jr. said “One day all men will be judged by the
content of their character and not the color of their skin.” He didn’t say
“might” or “could” or “should.” He made a declaration. It was bold, perhaps even
audacious, for JFK and MLK to declare what they did. But by making a
declaration, both possibilities became more real and people got behind the words
to create the future that was envisioned.
- Make and break promises with integrity. Making a promise is a profound act.
Within every promise lies the possibility and vulnerability of trust and hope.
That’s why leaders must be responsible with and committed in the ways they make
promises. There are times, however, when leaders must also break their promises.
As circumstances change, the reality of a given situation may require a shift.
When a leader has no other choice and must break a promise, the way to do it
with integrity is to acknowledge that a promise is being broken, to avoid
blaming others or being defensive, to offer a full explanation, and to honor the
intent of the original promise.
- Make requests instead of issuing commands. But don’t do this unless the
request is genuine and there is an option to decline. If your expectation is
compliance, then a request will be insincere. As often as possible, though,
leaders ask instead of telling. They do this to empower those around them and to
show respect and humility.
- Assert your ideas. Leaders make assertions in order to put themselves and
their ideas out there for discussion. Assertions are not necessarily factual or
true. They are conversation starters, and a leader uses them to bring attention
to something of interest or to state his or her own position.
- Exercise caution when you make assessments. Leaders need to make informed
assessments. People expect them to analyze a situation and be quick to offer a
read. But when leaders are hasty with their assessment, they can do damage to
their own credibility and to people they have assessed. It isn’t fair or wise
for a leader to judge prematurely or to publicly share opinions that are still
- Open yourself up. Non-verbal communication, your body language, conveys more
than you might realize. At a subconscious level, we react to people and judge
their trustworthiness, truthfulness, sincerity, skill level and leadership
abilities. The way we interpret body language can influence who we date, who we
confide in, who we decide to work with, who we vote for, and so much more. If
you would like to be seen as someone who has authority, power, influence,
confidence, strength, skill mastery, charisma and leadership presence, then this
is one technique you’ve got to try. It’s that powerful. Stand up and imagine a
vertical line going down the center of your body from your head to your toes.
Now, try to open up and expand further away from your center line. Start by
spreading your feet about shoulder-width apart. Now pull your shoulders back. As
you gesture, open your hands more – face your palms outward. Make your gestures
wider and more sweeping, moving away from your center line. Just these simple
body posture and position changes will convey something different about you.
- Ask more questions. And be interested in the responses you hear. We all trust
the people who show an interest in us. By asking questions, you will gain
insights into others and boost their confidence (in you and in themselves).
- Actively listen to others – asking questions is no good unless you give your
focus and attention to the answers given. Encourage the speaker to go beyond the
initial answer by asking follow up questions. Manage your attention span and
work to eliminate distractions when you ask questions.
- Paraphrase to check for understanding about what you’ve heard. By playing
back others’ words, you will demonstrate how you listened and how much
importance you place on what’s been shared with you. What’s more, you will gain
clarity and be able to build on what’s been expressed because you will
understand more than the superficial facts of a situation.
Leaders do all ten of these things on a regular basis. They master these
techniques in order to be more effective and to support the people around them,
too. The language of leaders is for anyone who wants to be persuasive and to
have high impact in the work they do.
Deb Calvert is President, People First Productivity Solutions
Published here on: 09-Jun-13