How Leaders Speak

How To

There is an inextricable link between leadership and communication. Leaders are the ones who can clearly communicate their vision. And the ones who can clearly communicate their vision are the ones who can lead.

You do not have to be the smartest person in the room to be the leader. In fact, it is widely accepted by many historians that two of the smartest presidents in recent history, the guys with the highest IQ, were Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon. Yet, Ronald Reagan, whether you agreed with his politics or not, went down in history for having been one of the most popular presidents of all time. He inspired a nation, presided over the booming ‘80s and was responsible for winning the Cold War. He was not known as one of our smartest presidents — he was known, instead, as “The Great Communicator.”

Leaders speak in terms of vision

Great leaders don’t spend all their time talking about what they can do. Great leaders talk about what they can see. That’s why we call what they talk about “vision.” They imagine a world that others can’t see and they share their vision with words. They don’t use statistics to make their point; they use vivid imagery.

It takes two things to be a great communicator:

First, you need to be an optimist. You need to look beyond the current situation and be able to imagine a time, no matter how far away — a week, a month or a decade — that is better than now.

Second, you must be able to put what you can imagine into simple words that everyone can understand; it doesn’t help to use a big vocabulary. It does help to use language that can be clearly understood by a truck driver and a scientist — simple, understandable and repeatable language.

Leaders speak emphatically

Using words like “I can see” or “I imagine” or “I believe” to start your thoughts helps paint a picture of that image. For example, what if I told you that statistics show that when people enjoy going to work their overall productivity and general happiness improves? If we develop a series of systems and processes to steadily increase people’s enjoyment of work, then work would get better. It’s an accurate statement, but would you be inspired to work with me in that pursuit? Probably not. But what if I said this:

I imagine a time not too far from now in which every single person who goes to work loves what they do. This is the world I can see. Can you imagine going to work every single day and loving what you do and the people you work with? How do you think that would impact your work or even your personal life? This is the world I imagine and it is possible if we work together to create it. Join me. Choose to lead. Choose to inspire. If you do, I know we will be successful. If you lead those around you, if you inspire the people around you, every one of us will wake up and love going to work. Are you in or are you out?

Same message, but only one inspires.

Simon Sinek is a renowned leadership expert who teaches leaders and companies how to inspire people. The author of the book Start With Why, he works with the military, politicians, government, entrepreneurs, and folks like you and me. For more, visit or follow him on Twitter @simonsinek.

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