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October 2009
Published by Geoff Kelly, Kelly Strategic Influence

Wisdom to lead minds:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Maya Angelou, Poet

Leaders influence how the world occurs to their followers.

When France fell to Germany in 1940, the people of the United Kingdom feared the worst for their own country. Analysts in Washington predicted that the United Kingdom may only survive two weeks. And in the United Kingdom itself, many feared an inevitable and irresistible invasion.

After all, the relatively small British Expeditionary Force that was the core of its army had been defeated and then retreated leaving all its heavy equipment on the beaches of Dunkirk. And the much larger French armies had fallen rapidly before the German military’s Blitzkrieg tactics, which had proven unstoppable wherever they had been employed.

However, Prime Minister Winston Churchill did not look to the recent past or his nation’s relative weakness before its formidable foe for his real world view. He looked to Britain’s potential to resist using all its natural defences, plus the nation’s still capable navy and air force.

In speeches that demonised Hitler as a monster, he also demonstrated confidence that the island nation could be defended whatever the cost. He even promised victory if they “never, never, never” gave in. And history records that what at the time must have at first seemed unreasonable to many, did come to pass. Churchill galvanised his people to action, and action led to effective resistance and even victories until Russia and the USA joined the war.

It was a dramatic example of how a leader can use vision and potential to shape how the world occurs to people rather than allow them to hold perceptions based on past history and current performance.

The greatest leaders throughout history right up to modern times have always known this truth: individuals and groups always behave according to how they see the world. And to change the way they behave, one must change the way the world occurs to them in some way.

Now this is a completely objectionable view to most people, who are locked-in to seeing reality in terms of past events and current performance. So the student who has struggled with maths is likely to see him or herself as destined to remain poor at maths. This perception flows through to study habits, who they associate with and challenges they are prepared to take. And it drives their current and future performance.

This situation continues unless some external force knocks them out of this cycle. For instance, a higher maths grade might become mandatory for a career that they want even more than they fear maths, and this new reality may push them to test what they previously felt were impervious boundaries. Or an extraordinary teacher might show them how they really have more maths ability than they imagined.

Most ordinary leaders, and the communication and human resources executives who support them, are conditioned to accept the current reality model. They under-rate the potential of people and groups to achieve the extraordinary, and they rely on core messages and information tactics to move people to change.

Most often they fail because these messages and information packets are received and interpreted from the context and mindsets of those who receive them. And these are usually very different from those who conceived these communications.

Of course being a Message Muppet - relying on forming and projecting self-centred messages - is way easier to implement as you can do so with little research and often almost no accountability. This is why we see so many infantile “we”, “our”, “I”, and other self-referenced messages carrying claims about meaningless abstractions that audiences find easy to ignore. These efforts largely fail, but continue because so few meaningfully measure and evaluate results.

True leaders want to effect real change and know that to impact how people behave they must impact how people view their worlds. This means they have to better understand how their targets currently view their worlds, and use more effective communication and action to shift them.

We’ll talk more about how in coming issues.

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.
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