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The Language of Leaders, part 2

In last week’s post, 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 forming.

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.

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalAs a leader, it’s imperative to understand why and how to show ever person that you care about them. Learn more about how you can CONNECT2Lead. And subscribe to our weekly CONNECT2Lead Newsletter for special offers, content, and blog posts.