Instant Leadership Talks

The human heart has a great capacity to be changed in an instant, prompting the people who experience the changes to take new actions.  The author sees this heart-dynamic as a leadership opportunity, offers examples, and provides a tool, the Leadership Talk, to help leaders consistently achieve heartfelt connections with the people they lead.

By Brent Filson - 2006

An extraordinary feature of the human heart is its capacity to be profoundly changed in an instant.  Experiences that take place in the blink of an eye can propel individuals to radically alter their behavior and even the course of their lives.  
Making use of this inherent quality of the heart can boost the effectiveness of your leadership.  For it is in the realm of heartfelt words and actions that great leadership results accrue.
For the past 22 years, I've been teaching a process to leaders of all ranks and functions in top companies worldwide, a process that can help you take advantage of the heart's great potential.  It's called The Leadership Talk.
The Leadership Talk is a way of making deep, emotional connections with the people for the purpose of achieving great results.
You can look at my website for more information on the Leadership Talk.  I've written many books and scores of articles about it.  However, for this article, I want to focus on one thing: the time it takes to give a Leadership Talk. And that gets back to the human heart and its ability to be quickly and deeply changed.
Leaders often ask me, "How long should a Leadership Talk be?"
My reply is: "As long as it takes -- not a moment longer."
Let's be clear about "what it takes."  The value of the Leadership Talk lies in its function.  The function of every Leadership Talk is to motivate people to choose to be your cause leaders.  Only cause leaders can achieve great results consistently.  To make this happen, you must develop a special relationship with those people.  After all, one may do a task and get average results; but to get great results, one should take leadership of that task.  Taking on leadership is not a commitment people make easily or lightly.  Being a leader requires one to embrace a higher order of expectations and achievements.  It also challenges one to develop richer, more results-effective human relationships.
A Leadership Talk may take five minutes or ten or 20 minutes or more.  However, because of the heart's extraordinary capacity to be changed immediately, a Leadership Talk can be done in a moment.  Here are a few "instant Leadership Talks" to demonstrate this.  Note that sometimes no words were involved.  Words are not absolutely necessary when it comes to giving Leadership Talks.
--Seeing abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison dragged with a rope down a Boston Street by a pro-slavery mob, Wendell Phillips became so outraged that he joined the abolitionist movement and throughout the rest of his life became one of its most effective activists.
--When anti-French passions were sweeping England in the late 18th century, Voltaire who had been living in London for several years was set upon by an angry mob.  "Hang the Frenchman!  Hang him!" shouted the rabble.
Voltaire responded, "Men of England!  You wish to hang me because I'm French?  Isn't NOT BEING BORN ENGLISH PUNISHMENT ENOUGH?"  The crowd laughed and cheered and escorted him back to his quarters.
--Doug Collins, member of the '72 U.S. Olympic team that ultimately lost the gold medal on a disputed call to the Soviet Union, describes the dramatic moments at the end of the game.
"We're losing by one.  The Soviets have the ball.  The clock's running out.  I hide behind the center, bait a guy into throwing a pass, knock it loose and grab it.  A Russian goes under me as I'm going up for the lay-up.  I'm KO'd for a second.  The coaches run to me.  John Bach, one of the assistants, says, 'We gotta get somebody to shoot the fouls."  But coach Hank Iba says, 'If Doug can walk, he'll shoot.' That electrified me.  The coach believed in me.  I can't even remember feeling any pressure.  Three dribbles, spin the ball, toss it in, same as in my backyard.  I hit 'em both and got the lead.  I didn't know what I was made of until then."
--a General Electric client of mine in the mid-1980s told me this.  "I was a young Naval officer reporting with many other new sailors aboard an aircraft carrier.  The captain met us in a formation on the flight deck.  He shook my hand and went down the line greeting many other sailors.  I didn't think anything of it until several weeks later when he passed by me in a passageway.  He said, ‘Hi, Herb!'  I never forgot that.  He remembered my name despite the fact that he had met scores of new sailors that day.  It's made a tremendous impact on me till this day."
--In the first December of the first World War, Admiral Beatty received a radiogram from Sir George Warrender from his ship.  "Scarborough being shelled.  I am proceeding to Hull."  Lord Beatty replied, "Are you? I'm proceeding to Scarborough."
--King Henry II and Thomas Becket, his archbishop of Canterbury, quarreled for years led over the rights and powers of the church and the state.  When Becket remained steadfast in his excommunication of Henry's appointees, the Bishops of London and Salibury, Henry, celebrating Christmas in Normandy, raged, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"  Four knights, members of his household, answered the question.  They crossed the Channel, rode to the Cantebury Cathedral and killed Becket at the altar.  Eventually, the Cantebury Cathedral became a shrine, Becket was canonized, and Henry was made to atone by walking barefoot in a sack-cloth through the streets of Cantebury being flogged by eight monks with branches.
--At a public meeting during which he was censuring the recently dead Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev was interrupted by a voice in the crowd.  "You were one of Stalin's colleagues, why didn't you stop him?"
"Who said that?" Khrushchev roared.  There was a painful silence in the room . 
"Now," Khruschev said, in a quiet voice, "you know why." 
–-A year and a half after the battle of Yorktown, the Continental Army was becoming increasingly rebellious.  Many of the troops hadn't been paid in two years.  Their promised pensions were not forthcoming.  The troops and its officer corps contemplated overthrowing the Continental Congress and installing a military government.  On the Ides of March in 1783, dozens of officers, representing every company in the army, met in a log hut to vote on taking this action when George Washington suddenly and unexpectedly walked in.  He gave a speech denouncing the rebellious course they were on.  But it wasn't the speech that carried the day, it was the Leadership Talk at the end of the speech.  Witnesses report that Washington's speech left many officers unconvinced, and when he was finished, there was angry muttering among them.  To bolster his case, the general pulled out a letter he recently received from a member of the Continental Congress.  As he began reading, his usual confident air gave way to hesitancy.  Then, unexpectedly, he drew out a spectacle case from his pocket.  Few officers had ever seen him put on spectacles. Usually a severely formal man, he said, in a voice softened with apology: "Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country."
The deep, human, emotional power of that moment electrified the officers.  Here was their


2006© The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. – Celebrating 25 years of helping leaders of top companies worldwide achieve outstanding results every day. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get his FREE report "7 Steps To Leadership Mastery"