By now, anyone who reads this blog knows that we read a lot. And a book I recently read is Leading Out Loud: Inspiring Change Through Authentic Communications, New and Revised by Terry Pearce (February 2013). The main point of the book is that a leader must speak in an authentic voice to build loyalty, commitment and enthusiasm in his or her organization. Pearce doesn’t just write this. He provides a step-by-step process to help leaders find their authentic voice. It is not an easy journey, but it's one that is worthwhile.
“People make commitments to causes they value and people they respect and trust.”
This certainly is not new information. All of us in leadership positions know this. Pearce goes on to show you how to become that person, that leader who is respected and trusted. Once that occurs, your people will follow you.
What builds respect and trust towards you?
Authentic communication. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say, whether in a public address, private meeting, e-mail, memo or telephone conversation. “Walking the walk and talking the talk.” You don’t have to remember your script because it is not a script. It is your way of being.
To do this, the leader must first discover what matters to him or her, develop courage and self-discipline, decide proactively to lead and learn to deeply connect with others.
Again, this requires authenticity. Authenticity comes from who you are, not what you do. This takes work. It takes time for introspection and examination. Pearce suggests strongly that every idea you hold passionately comes from personal experience. And to be authentic, you need to connect with that life experience that defined you as a person and be able to communicate how and why it resonates so strongly with you. The book really made me think about why I do some of the things I do, and why I feel so strongly about some things that don't matter as much to others.
Just to give an example from my life, being on time is so important to me. I start feeling physically sick if I think I am going to be late. And when someone else is late, it impacts on my feelings for him or her. Looking back on my life and how I was raised, I remember events from my childhood where I was left, waiting, with my brothers and sister, for my parents to come pick us up. Sometimes for hours. It wasn't their fault, they both worked, but it has had a lifelong impact on me. Understanding why I feel this way and being able to convey it to others, really helps them buy in to me. But it also helps me understand those around me who don't hold that same value. Because they have had different experiences.
Take some time to examine what you stand for, what you would fight for, what you feel deeply about and why. Once you have done that, you can craft your message. But don’t go public with it. First, you must make sure that the words you use and the way you relate them will have you perceived as a leader and not just someone who feels passionate about a good idea. Your message must be concise, moving and strong.
The book goes on to examine ways to get your points across effectively including sharing personal experiences, using metaphors, establishing competency and showing gratitude. In one instance, Pearce shares how the then-president of Schwab, Dave Pottruck, introduced Saturday hours to his field force. It was a powerful message on how something that could have been construed negatively was introduced in a heartfelt, sensitive manner that helped people understand its necessity.
This weekend was a bit rainy in Charleston so there was plenty of time to read and reflect on why we do the things we do. It is so important in leadership to understand our own motivations.