Published by Geoff Kelly, Kelly Strategic Influence
Wisdom to lead minds:
ďA pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
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
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
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
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...
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
© 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.)