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August 2008
Published by Geoff Kelly, Kelly Strategic Influence

Wisdom to lead minds:

“Good ideas are not adopted automatically.
They must be driven into practice with courageous patience.”

Hyman Rickover, US Admiral

Are you using the double lens to magnify your ideas for impact?

Consider the following three statements:

  • An object of any size can be moved with a big enough lever.
  • The Soviet Union and East Bloc countries cut their citizens off from the West by patrolling and enforcing an almost totally impassable boundary between Eastern and Western Europe.
  • Good investment takes deep understanding and careful thought about the fundamentals of a company’s future, not just its past performance.

Each makes an important point about the serious fields of physics, political history and investing.

Now consider the following statements that make the same points:

  • "Give me but one firm spot on which to stand, and I will move the Earth.”
    - Archimedes, mathematician and inventor in Ancient Greece.
  • "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtin has descended across the Continent.”
    - Winston Churchill after the Second World War
  • “If history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.”
    - Warren Buffett

You probably recognise all three of the second set of statements and would agree that these have made a big impact in their respective fields. You also might agree that had they been couched in the language of the first set, that they might not have been nearly as viral or effective.

So why does one work better than the other, when the meaning is essentially the same?

You might observe that the second set was helped by the attribution of famous and credible people. Clearly this is a powerful factor. Each is widely known and respected for his knowledge of the subject. However, more than knowledge, he is known for other qualities too. These qualities include courage (Archimedes risking and losing his life in using his science to build machines that defended the city of Syracuse until the Romans captured it and killed him); conviction Buffett’s stand for the fundamentals irrespective of economic conditions is legendary); passion (Churchill’s concern about communist domination of Europe was a constant and passionate theme, even when they were war-time allies).

Other qualities these and other effective leaders demonstrate in earning support for their ideas include authenticity, faith and belief, strong empathy for their audiences, and emotional honesty.

So the qualities that the leader is known for, and or hat come through in their real-time communication (such as is evidenced in the speech where Churchill first publicised his theme) is a crucial factor in getting an important idea adopted. If the process were likened to an optical telescope, then this would be the first lens that the audience looks through.

There is a second lens in an optical telescope, which in combination with the first gives the instrument its powerful magnification. In the same way, there is a second lens to giving ideas more impact and making them more memorable.

This second lens is the use of powerful imagery and language. Archimedes, Churchill and Buffett crafted images that made their ideas clear and memorable for millions of people. And they framed these images in language that allowed these images to stand out.

Compare this with how many leaders and organisations portray themselves today. Often they have ideas just as important to themselves and their audiences. However, they mostly abdicate their leadership by defaulting to clinical and dull presentation of ideas wrapped in lifeless words and phrases. Or worse, too often they focus on abstractions of doubtful meaningfulness to their key audiences, and further exclude them with jargon, an ocean of self-references and way too much complexity.   

Self-referencing is only one of many elements where improvement can have a major impact on leadership and organisation outcomes. Although we have covered it before, self-referencing continues at such epidemic levels among otherwise worthy organisations that it rates a full-out campaign.

For now we’ll look at one current example.

Consider this all too familiar self-centred drivel from the home page of a major mining services corporation–

(Company name) is one of…”; “We are also…”; “We have evolved from…”; “(Firm name)’s proud traditions…”; “(Firm name) turns science into…”; “Each of our businesses…”; “At (firm name), we …”; “We acknowledge our…”. These are the beginnings of the first eight sentences – all starting with a reference to themselves, and many including more in the body of each (some with four or more). In fact, every sentence on the page started with a self-reference.

Unfortunately this is no exception, but is typical of too many major organisations. If the previous paragraph is anything like the way your people portray you and your organisation, immediately send them to re-education camp and get someone to change this stuff right now. Today is good. Last year would have been better. Next month would continue to cost you more than you know.  

And if you want to be a leader in more than name only take some time to reflect upon how you can improve your double lens leadership. Ask yourself how you can improve your use of the double lens to magnify the impact of your ideas. How can you demonstrate rather than tell your first lens qualities? And how can you leverage your idea for impact with second lens elements? And finally, how can you refine your approach and language so that both lenses work in harmony to make your ideas the brightest lights in your audience’s sky?

More next month...


Geoff Kelly works with leaders who are frustrated that others don't fully support their ideas and strategies. He mainly works with corporate leaders around the world, but also leaders in Government and Not for Profit. He is also a popular speaker on this and related subjects. See www.kellystrategicinfluence.com.au, email [email protected] or call +613 9678 9218 for more information


© 2006-2008 Geoff Kelly All rights reserved.
You are free to use material from the Leading Minds eZine in whole or in part, as long as you include complete attribution, including live web site link. Please also notify me where the material will appear. The attribution should read: "By Geoff Kelly of Kelly Strategic Influence. Please visit Geoff's web site at www.kellystrategicinfluence.com.au for additional articles and resources on earning support for your ideas and strategies." (Make sure the link is live if placed in an eZine or in a web site.)



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