160 years ago, the newly invented electric telegraph carried
the first news message. The message zipped 40 miles in a flash over wires from Baltimore to Washington, D.C.
The public was dazzled — except Henry David Thoreau. He wrote: “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”
Today, we live in a Golden Age of communication. We have the Internet. We have faxes. We have e-mails. We have streaming video. We have on-line audio. We have RSS feeds. We have logs and blogs.
Yet today Thoreau is as right as rain. When it comes to really getting our messages across, we’re stuck in the Stone Age.
Here’s why. The vast majority of business leaders I’ve encountered are repeatedly making a huge mistake in communication, a mistake that’s screwing up their jobs and careers. They’re stuck giving presentations and speeches. They’re NOT giving Leadership Talks!
What’s a Leadership Talk? Look at it this way: There’s a hierarchy of verbal persuasion when it comes to business leadership. The lowest levels are speeches and presentations. They communicate information. The highest, most effective way of communicating is the Leadership Talk. The Leadership Talk does more than simply send information. It has the leader establish a deep, human, emotional connection with the audience. That’s where leaders communicate for the best results.
Here are a few examples of leadership talks. When Churchill said, “We will fight on the beaches … ” That was a leadership talk. When Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you … ” that was a leadership talk. When Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” That was a leadership talk.
You can come up with a lot of examples too. Go back to those moments when the words of a leader inspired people to take ardent action, and you’ve probably put your finger on an authentic leadership talk.
Mind you, I’m not just talking about great leaders of history. I’m also talking about all leaders everywhere no matter what their function or rank. After all, leaders speak 15 to 20 times a day: everything from formal speeches to informal chats. When those interactions are leadership talks, not just speeches or presentations, the effectiveness of those leaders is dramatically increased.
That’s where business leaders communicate for the best results. You can order people to go from point A to point B. But the best way to get great results is to have people want to go from A to B. Instilling “want to” in others, motivating them … isn’t that what great leadership is all about?
Don’t get me wrong. The Leadership Talk is not some kind of “feel-good” way of relating. It took me 20 years to figure out how to give Leadership Talks and write two books about it. There are specific processes one must manifest in order to give Leadership Talks. Usually it takes me two full days to teach people how to do it. Once they learn it, they can use it throughout the rest of their careers. The Leadership Talk is relatively easy to learn and it takes years to master. The point is that through it, you can take specific, concrete steps to motivate people to take action that gets great results.
For instance, before leaders can develop and deliver a Leadership Talk, they must first answer “yes” to three simple questions: “Do you know what the audience needs? Can you transfer your deep believe to others so they believe as strongly as you do about the challenges you face? And can you have that audience take ardent action that gets results?” If leaders “no” to any one of those questions, he/she can’t give a Leadership Talk.
160 years ago the dots and dashes that chattered down the wires from Baltimore to Washington spelled out that the Whigs had nominated Henry Clay to run for the presidency.
Back then, Thoreau might have said nothing important was communicated; but today if you want to lead for great results, take Thoreau to heart. Communicate what truly IS important. Don’t give presentations and speeches. Give Leadership Talks. Forge those deep, human, emotional connections with your audiences. Get them motivated to take ardent action for great results.
2005 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The author of 23 books, Brent Filson’s recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. – and for more than 20 years has been helping leaders of top companies worldwide get audacious results. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine at http://www.actionleadership.com and get a free white paper: “49 Ways To Turn Action Into Results.” For more about The Leadership Talk: [http://theleadershiptalk.com]
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