How Leaders Dilute Their Impact


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Brevity increases impact. The Gettysburg address had 267 words, give or take a couple. 50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for about 16 minutes. Who doesn’t remember, “I have a dream.”

Managing requires more talking than leading. Technicalities and execution require more words than disruption, encouragement, guidance, and inspiration.

Verbosity isn’t leadership.
The longer you talk the less you lead.

Sadly, people with power usually talk longer than those without. Even worse, we determine whose powerful by the frequency and duration others open their mouths. But, we have it backwards.

“I go to meetings, but I’m not allowed to speak.” (Spoken by a mid-level.) Leaders who do all the talking are power hungry fools. I’m hesitant to soften the blow of that last sentence, but, if it helps, I’m a talker.

Talkers are controllers.
The longer you talk the more you’re trying to control.

Leadership is releasing. One reason you’re frantic and stressed is you’re controlling.

Who is motivated by feeling controlled? “Let my people go.”

In the spirit of brief and short, the seven best four-letter words for leaders:

  1. Hear. Listening is the first step in influence. Speaking before hearing produces resistance.
  2. Help. You exist to help your team succeed. Period.
  3. Rely. Create environments where others step up and trust them to rise.
  4. Hope. Negativity destroys positive impact. Leadership requires optimism. Hope is belief based on past performance and current effort that change is possible.
  5. Stop. Starting something new without stopping something old eventually destroys impact.
  6. Brag. Applaud the success of others. Go crazy when people are doing what’s right.
  7. Show. Demonstrate the behaviors you expect from others.

Today’s leadership challenge is brevity. Use small words and short sentences. Speak briefly.

How can leaders learn to be brief?

What useful four letter words should be added to the list?

Thanks to the Leadership Freak Facebook participants for suggesting great four letter words.