An essential skill for being a better leader By Joe Tye
You might have read that the essence of leadership is the ability to influence others, but that’s not true. There are newspaper columnists and think tank thinkers who have great influence but are not necessarily leaders.
Rather, leadership is the ability to inspire others.
By that definition I met a great leader at the American Hospital Association Leadership Summit last week: 5-year-old Rosie Colucci. There were some great speakers at the conference, but no one inspired emotion, and action, like little Rosie did as she hustled the floor to raise money for pediatric brain cancer research.
Rosie has neurofibromatosis and has spent a substantial part of her young life in hospitals – her second home. She (and her parents) still have a long struggle ahead of them. But you sure wouldn’t have known that from the big smile that drew hundreds of us to the booth of the Siemens company, which had generously offered to make a contribution for every attendee who stopped by. The money will go to Rosie’s research foundation. You can read more about Rosie and learn about NF, and make a contribution yourself if you wish, by going to the site.
Rosie inspired – and thus influenced – others by sharing her story. That’s what the best leaders do.
Fortunately, the ability to inspire through storytelling is a skill that anyone can cultivate. Anyone can learn how to more effectively inspire emotion, and action, by developing their speaking skills.
In my book All Hands on Deck, I tell a story that features ten legendary business leaders. They were very different people with very different approaches to building their companies, but they all shared this in common: they were great storytellers who had the ability to inspire others with their words.
A vital leadership skill – and resources for developing it …
Public speaking and storytelling are not genetic inheritances – they are learned skills. And anyone who would be a better leader would be well-advised to work on better developing those skills.
There are some great books on how to be a better speaker, such as On Speaking Well by Peggy Noonan. Richard Greene’s book Words that Shook the World includes a CD with recordings of some of the most powerful speeches of the 20th century. If you want to avoid Death by PowerPoint, read The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo.
But it’s not enough just to read about it – you also have to practice it. If you are a manager or salesperson, you already have built-in opportunities to practice more effective speaking and storytelling. You can also join Toastmasters (and if there’s not one in your company or community, you can start a chapter).
It’s been said that a leader is a person who takes you to a place to which you didn’t know you wanted to go. But first they must paint the picture, they must tell the story, that inspires you to start walking. To be a better leader yourself, get better at painting those pictures and at telling those stories.
It will take some work, and require you to step outside of your comfort zone, but this is one of the most important investments you can make in your own leadership (and sales) effectiveness.
Joe Tye is president of Paradox 21 Inc., which provides corporate training and culture change initiatives based on a proprietary curriculum of The Twelve Core Action Values of Personal Leadership Effectiveness. He is also the author of several books and audio programs on personal, career, and business success, and a popular motivational speaker. Visit www.JoeTye.com
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