Leadership Requires Influence
Monday, October 18th, 2010
Use Influential Language
Leadership is about influence – whether it is getting buy-in to a vision, changing attitudes or motivating your people to perform at their best. The words we use have influence.
Visionary leaders wield powerful influence through language. Think of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech or Winston Churchill’s address to the House of Commons in 1940 when on the edge of defeat to Nazi Germany.
Both Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill tuned into and struck a cord with the mood of the group they were addressing. In Churchill’s case, the critical challenge was to keep the nation’s morale up in the face of a terrifying threat. In Luther King’s case, the time for civil rights had come and he articulated the mood of the time in a way that struck hearts and minds and mobilised people to action.
In any leadership context, the power of language in achieving influence cannot be underestimated.
Many factors are at work when communication is effective in achieving influence. However, in our experience good communicators:
- Have empathy – they sense and tune into the mood of the group or individual they want to influence
- Have a good level of self-awareness and self-management
- Are clear on their key messages and desired outcomes
- Anticipate objections or concerns and front foot them
- Use language to appeal to the different ways people process verbal messages (e.g. visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, auditory digital)
- Use metaphors and personal experience