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November 2009
Published by Geoff Kelly, Kelly Strategic Influence

Wisdom to lead minds:

ďA pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

Winston Churchill, British political leader

Move your world with burning boats or compelling words.

Last month we discussed how leaders can evoke profound changes in the behaviour of individuals and groups, even of nations, when they stimulate people to see their world differently.

In essence, we generally behave according the way the world occurs to us. Therefore, if you believe your neighbourhood at night is a dangerous and unpredictable place, and you prefer safety and certainty, you are unlikely to venture out in the dark without a compelling reason.

However, if you see the neighbourhood at night as full of exciting opportunities to meet new people and enjoy new experiences, you will venture out as much as possible.

Usually people hold the views of the world that they do due to past and current experiences - including beliefs and experiences they have adopted from others.

So if you are afraid of the night, you probably have your reasons Ė perhaps based on direct experience, or on what someone has shared with you. This is the human condition to form predispositions in this way, and in many cases they can last much longer than they are useful or relevant.

Effective leaders understand this, and mostly attempt to effect the changes they want through changing the way their followers see their world and circumstances.

For example, in 1519 Spaniard Hernando Cortez had been campaigning on the coast of Mexico with great success. When he decided to march inland with his now reduced Spanish force of 400 soldiers, supported by several thousand local allies, many of his men were wavering in the face of the Aztec empireís great numbers.

Cortez spent some time with groups of his men envisioning the rewards of conquest for each of them. Then he gathered them together and in a brief speech announced he was burning their ships.

Without a ready escape option if things went wrong, his soldiers realised that their only real choice was to fight with full enthusiasm. And they achieved what had been impossible for 600 years, the defeat of the Aztec empire.

In a similar way, when Julius Caesar led his army across the small Rubicon River, he changed the way the world occurred to both his troops and his enemies in Rome. By crossing into his enemiesí province, he turned the ambiguities of politics into the certainty of war.

Modern leaders do much the same when they launch corporate takeovers or major change efforts. But whether or not they lead with action, they invariably rely on the use of the use of language to move their followers to action.

Not just any language, but they mostly use the language of the future state they want to manifest. Because they know that the words people use reflect the way they think about any circumstance.

Too many leaders donít understand this, and that is why so many fail when they try to get support for change programs, new strategies, and other big changes in direction. Often people feel safe in the familiar, even if it is not working and a fast changing external environment will soon make the status quo unworkable.

So if you want to active followership, particularly when you need people to trade their current comfort zone for a less comfortable alternative, core messages just wonít cut it.

You may not have to burn their ships, but youíll probably have to burn their current view of reality. For example, if people are risk averse, consider showing them how their current situation is really unstable and risky, and how your alternative is the safer path.

A good current example where such leadership is sorely needed is the whole debate on climate change. Advocates of drastic community action paint a world descending into environmental ruin without immediate major action. Sceptics say it is too late even if their predictions were true, and cast doubt on the inconsistent claims of scientists. And paint their own picture of economic collapse if communities do move down the path of major carbon emission reduction at industry expense.

The result coming consistently from polling is that most people are getting agitated by both sides because the arguments are confusing them.

Where are the leaders who can build this understanding?

What issue do you need advance? How can you help shape how the world occurs to those most important to your success?

More next month...

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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 gkelly@kellystrategicinfluence.com.au or call +613 9678 9218 for more information

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© 2009 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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