Leading Blog






12.11.15

Are You Trading Influence for Attention?

Are You Trading Influence for Attention

PEGGY NOONAN brought up some great thoughts in her editorial, A Rash Leader in a Grave Time that would be good for us to consider in any time.

She was referring to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, but too frequently we see the tendency of leaders in all walks of life, to use their “mouth as a blunt instrument” whenever they feel they are in the right, have a just cause, want to get attention, or simply want to put their foot down. Their comments may not be as flamboyant as Donald Trump’s, but they are just as dismissive. Some people find that to be an admirable quality in a leader, until of course, they don’t. When the leader steps on their toes, then the undisciplined rhetoric comes across as contemptuous.

Noonan says that the problem arises when a leader “doesn’t think it through, doesn’t anticipate legitimate pushback, doesn’t try to persuade, only declares.” It is disrespectful and shows a lack of self- and situational-awareness on the part of the leader.

MacArthur
A good leader has a self-awareness of the kind that helps them to understand their impact on others. A good leader seeks to influence and connect with everyone they touch and not just those ardent supporters in their camp. The goal isn’t to just whip up the troops but to gain converts. A leader’s rhetoric may point out differences but with the goal of ultimately bringing reconciliation. Noonan states, “one thing an effective leader must always do is know what can be misunderstood and guard against it, what can be misconstrued and used to paint you—and your followers—as bigoted. Leaders try hard not to let that happen. It is the due diligence of politics.” It’s the due diligence of leaders everywhere.

She uses the word politesse in this regard. In a time when grabbing attention is more important than civility, politesse it not a practical value. Taking the time to be civil or polite and to polish our words is a luxury we can’t afford or we may miss adding our voice to what’s trending. The pressure to respond doesn’t often leave us the time to be thoughtful, measured, and disciplined on our approach. We have to fight the forces that would intimidate us.

That doesn’t mean we can’t be remarkable in our speech. Noonan encourages, “It is possible for candidates to be vivid but careful, dramatic but responsible.

Politesse is a word that implies sacrifice which is at the core of good leadership. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our raw emotions for disciplined thought; our efficient bluntness for long-term understanding.

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