When you were a youngster learning to write, no doubt you were instructed to write first about what you know. Leaders elevate the stakes. They are required to communicate what they know through their words and actions. But they need to do something else as well: They need to demonstrate passion—the conviction that they care. As recipients of messages throughout the day, at work, in the media, and in our daily lives, we have become very adept at discerning whether truth is coming from the speaker's platform. It has become almost reflexive for us to assume that all politicians are lying or that all businessmen are being evasive. Of course these are gross exaggerations, and unfair ones, too, but the perception remains real. So what's a leader to do?
Speak with conviction. The passion that a leader brings to the message is essential. Recall the passion that our civil rights leaders brought to their messages in the fifties and sixties. Their conviction was born of the injustice they had personally experienced. Today we see some of the same conviction in human rights workers who work on behalf of victims of hunger, war, and land mines. Their passion is genuine. As a leader, you probably feel a similar passion for what you do. Your challenge is to transfer what is inside of you to what is coming out of your mouth. If you speak simply, honestly, and straightforwardly, your conviction will ring true.
Keep in mind that you will not be feeling your best every time you speak. You may be feeling overworked, tired, or even bored. The last thing you may want to do is get up and speak about some new initiative, but remember, that's your job. You owe it to your followers, those who place their trust in you, to speak with clarity and conviction. You need to deliver the passion, even when you are feeling about as passionate as a wrung-out dishcloth. At times like this, you have to trust your instincts and use your acting abilities. Acting is not about faking conviction; it is a set of tools that you use to articulate your message in a believable manner.