“Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.” – Thomas Jefferson
How can you and I possibly use this leadership quote?
Non-verbal and unconscious communication
We all know that our non-verbal communication makes up a large proportion of the messages we send out and those which people receive. There are many numbers thrown around and studies show numbers above 80 per cent for the non-verbal portion of communication. An increasing volume of modern research and several other quotes on leadership and psychology clarify just how much influence our unconscious brain has on our conscious activity. Again, there is a good deal of research which shows that our brain has reached a decision long before our conscious and rational mind believes it decides.
What are you communicating?
“You cannot not communicate” – this is one of the so-called “presuppositions” of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Think about it. Maybe you’ve even read some other quotes on leadership or communication about it. If you say nothing, you are communicating; if you say something, are you communicating only what you say or are you communicating other things in parallel? Exactly what are you communicating and how does it match your intentions? Have you checked?
You will be watched!
As a leader, you will be watched more than most by those you lead. Give a good deal of thought to what you say and do. People will receive affirmations, contradictions and all manner of communications from you whether you mean to transmit them or not. Be consistent with your vision and values as you go about your day. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Act as if all the world were watching”.
Please don’t blame them
“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said” – Peter Drucker
I agree with Peter Drucker. As he says, “It is the recipient who communicates.” The message is received on the recipient’s terms and the terms must be based on experience. Remember, if you try to communicate things which people don’t expect or have not experienced, they will not receive that communication – and you will not have communicated. Please don’t blame them. Adjust your transmissions so that they are tuned in to receive. Support them in this and you will achieve far more through others.
Reflect on your listening skills
Now is a good time to take stock of how you communicate, how well you communicate, what you want to communicate and how this all fits in with your vision and your leadership. Sit back for a few minutes and reflect on your listening skills.
Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Watch for non-verbal clues. Become an observer. Avoid becoming “one who speaks and listens to himself speak”.
Listen with an open mind, gather all the incoming information, both verbal and non-verbal and be careful not to ignore things you don’t wish to hear. Don’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions. The punchline usually comes at the end!
This takes practice and skill. Unlike many things, we are born with a great listening skill but it is very easy to lose it as we grow up.
A different twist
To put a different twist on one of the best quotes on leadership from Benjamin Disraeli: you must follow what people say. Are you not their leader?
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Books on leadership for further reading:
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