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Friday, February 13, 2009

Lincoln’s Communication

Fifth in a series on Lincoln’s leadership: Leading in tough times based on a review of Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times by Donald T. Phillips.

Lincoln knew what all great leaders, and certainly all presidents, learn: Communicating ideas to constituents stands at the center of a successful tenure. Without considerable communication skills, leaders are doomed to failure. Nowhere is this more conspicuous than the presidency. Here are a few principles from this section of the book:

Become a good public speaker: Perhaps the quintessential skill for any president and leader of consequence, public speaking shapes the future for many leaders. If you cannot, or are not, willing to learn how to speak publically, you’re at a considerable disadvantage as a leader. People need to know what you’re thinking, planning, and envisioning. Bottom Line: Speak often to groups, and get a coach if it’s difficult, but learn the skill.

Use storytelling to influence: Lincoln was the consummate conversationalist and storyteller. In fact, he often used storytelling to introduce difficult topics. His dry, but poignant wit also underscored his stories, making him an informative and entertaining speaker—a hard combination to beat. The son of an accomplished storyteller, Lincoln was also a circuit-riding lawyer who developed a storytelling skill that entertained patrons of local taverns in Illinois as well as congressmen in Washington. Bottom Line: Use stories to illustrate your points.

Have a vision: I heard a lecturer once say that if you have no vision, any road will get you there. Followers want a clear vision of where they are going. Most people can understand the what or how of a situation if they know the why—or reason behind the situation. This is why rationale-based goal setting makes sense. Leaders who tell people where they want to take them and why that is will always attract a crowd. Bottom Line: Develop a vision and strong reasons why it’s right for the organization and its people.

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