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Part III: Sustaining the Leadership Message

Chapter Overview

Leadership communications is a continuous job. Messages must be communicated and recommunicated in ways that make them understandable and credible to various audiences and able to be acted upon by those audiences. This process is called sustaining the leadership message. In addition, the leader must connect with his or her people on a personal level in order to build a sense of trust. When a bond of trust has been established, the future becomes possible. People will be inspired to follow, and in the process they will achieve inspired results for themselves, for the leader, and for the organization.

Part III focuses on sustaining the leadership message through a variety of communications methods, including coaching and storytelling. You will learn how to use communications as a core leadership behavior to achieve inspired results through the actions of the people you lead.

Chapter 9: Connecting with People Beyond Words


Remember before you speak, it is necessary to listen, and only then, from the fullness of your heart you speak and God listens.

Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa, No Greater Love, ed. Becky Benenate and Joseph Durepos, with a foreword by Thomas Moore, p. 9.

Morale is the state of mind. It is steadfastness and courage and hope. It is confidence and zeal and loyalty. . . . It is staying power, the spirit which endures to the end - the will to win. With it all things are possible, without it everything else . . . is for naught.

George C. Marshall
H. A. DeWeerd, ed., Selected Speeches and Statements of General of the Army George C. Marshall (1945), quoted in Robert A. Fitton, Leadership Quotations from the World's Greatest Motivators, p. 197.

We live in an age of theatricality. You can see it everywhere.

In shopping malls. In TV news programs. In music programs. Even in the supermarket. There is a reason for this: People who have a product to sell or a message to communicate feel the need to intensify the delivery of their message. Merchandisers use high-impact graphics and artful staging to display their products in the most appealing manner. Advertisers produce creative messages for TV, radio, and the Internet as a means of gaining attention. As a result, the rest of us feel that we need to put some pizzazz into our messages in order to be heard and, better yet, understood.

As a result of this pervasive theatricality, the straightforward stand-up presentation may appear tired and dated. At times, it may actually be so. When that occurs, you can extend yourself beyond words and pictures in order to connect with the audience (see Figure 9-1). There may be occasions when you want to think like a promoter and present like a professional actor.

Connecting with the Audience

Figure 9-1:  Connecting with the Audience

In fact, actor-turned-President Ronald Reagan spent the bulk of his time doing what he did best - communicating. He worked hard at his speeches, and he delivered them with the practiced skill of an actor. In fact, Lou Cannon, his biographer, has written that Reagan was very proud of his acting ability; he took umbrage at political enemies who sought to dismiss him and his policies by calling him a lousy actor. Reagan wondered how anyone could function as president without acting experience.[1]

Engage the Audience

The key word to remember is engagement - getting the audience to look, listen, and respond. But how do you engage an audience? By appealing to its intelligences. All of us have more than one type of intelligence. According to psychologist and author Howard Gardner, we have at least seven, covering mind, body, and spirit. All too often, presentations appeal only to the intellect, ignoring our physical, emotional, and spiritual sides.[2]

Good leadership communicators strive to reach both the head and the heart. They want to pitch ideas to the mind, where we figure things out with logic and reason. But they also work to reach the heart, our emotional side, where decisions are made. Leaders need to make a strong emotional case for a vision statement; they need their followers to see, touch, and feel what the future will be like once the vision becomes reality.

Leaders can borrow lessons from salespeople. Salespeople are practiced masters at knowing how to close when the customer is excited and emotionally involved. Leaders can capture the same kind of engagement as they seek to sell their message. Effective presenters must connect with the audience in at least one and often more of the following ways.

How can you develop your presentation so that you do this? You are limited only by the range of your imagination. Here are some ways to get the audience to focus its attention on you and your leadership message.

Facilitate Responses

Audiences are accustomed to sitting and listening. If you can reach out and encourage them to speak up, you have broken the invisible barrier separating the presenter from the audience. Here are some simple things you may wish to try:

Use Interactive Tools

Interactive is the twenty-first-century word for getting people involved in what you are presenting. Here are some ideas you may wish to consider. Pick and choose those tools that complement your style and the expectations of your audience.

Engaging the audience is a presenter's chief responsibility. As we have shown, there are many ways to stimulate an audience response. The challenge for the presenter is finding the right balance between message and staging. Sometimes words alone are enough. Other times, you may need both visuals and interactive games. Whatever the method, the outcome must be the same: engaging the audience's attention.

Theatricality may not be suitable for all occasions. It may be expected of professional presenters, but it may be frowned upon when you are presenting to the board of directors. Boredom is your enemy. Do what you can to banish it from your presentations forever.

Alternative Presentation Formats

Leaders continually need to ask themselves why they are communicating. On one level, it is to impart the leadership message as it relates to vision, mission, and values. On a deeper level, it is to strengthen the bonds of trust between leader and followers. Therefore, the manner in which a leader communicates is less important than the content of the message and its impact.

Much of Part II concentrated on developing a coherent presentation, using both words and visuals. All of the rules of message structure are valid, but the presentation methods may vary. For example, the presenter may choose to give the presentation as a dialogue, asking questions of the audience and proceeding into discussion, debate, and maybe resolution. Other times, the leader may just make an opening statement and invite questions from the audience. As a third option, the leader may come out, tell a story about the business, and invite comments from the audience. The methods of presentation are endless; what is important is the message and its content.

Facilitated Dialogue

One method that is fast gaining in popularity is the facilitated dialogue - inviting a skilled facilitator to conduct a dialogue between the leader and the audience. Turning things over to a facilitator leaves the leader free to concentrate on the message - what does she or he want to say, and why? The facilitator will be briefed in advance and told what points need to be made; it will be up to him or her to bring out these points from the leader and from members of the audience. A facilitated dialogue will still require much preparation - drafting the messages, shaping the presentation ideas, even providing visual support, if desired.

The advantages of a facilitated dialogue are that it encourages the participation of both leader and audience. It enables people to contribute their own ideas, and it enables the group to build on the ideas of others. The leader becomes an active participant in shaping the process. Leader and followers collaborate in a shared process that can lead to greater understanding, and ultimately to greater levels of trust.

One thing to remember: The leader should have the last word in a facilitated dialogue. This enables the leader to sum up the meeting and take ownership of the process. The leader may invite others to offer their final words, but he or she should be the one to close. This act affirms her or his leadership and responsibility for leading the group.

Hints on Facilitated Dialogue

When staging a facilitated dialogue, consider the following:

The bottom line is that leadership communications is about content and meaning. A facilitated dialogue can be a wonderful way to explore new ideas as well as to affirm organizational values and create deeper levels of trust.

Mother Teresa - A Life of Healing

She radiated holiness pure and simple. She was drawn to the poorest of the poor, and as a result the world was drawn to her. She was Mother Teresa. Founder of a religious order and a Nobel laureate, she lived as she died, in Calcutta tending to those in need. One of the ways she was able to achieve what she did - always for others - was through her unique ability to communicate. Through prayer, through meditation, through interviews, and through her own writings, Mother Teresa demonstrated an ability to bring people to her cause.

Macedonia to India

The facts of her life are straightforward. Born in Skopje in what is now Macedonia, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was Albanian by heritage. She was inspired to go to India after learning about it from missionaries who spoke at her school. She joined an Irish order, the Sisters of Loreto, moved to India, and became a school principal. Wanting to do more, she founded her own order, the Missionaries of Charity, based on Franciscan principles of service to those most in need. She founded her order with some fellow nuns in 1948 with no funds to speak of. Upon her death nearly 40 years later, her order had grown to include 4000 nuns and 120,000 lay workers treating the disenfranchised who were suffering from leprosy or AIDS as well as hunger and malnutrition in some 450 missions around the world. She also became a citizen of India, demonstrating her solidarity with the people she served first.[4]

Burden of Sainthood

Mother Teresa was not comfortable with the label of "living saint." It is true that she had an aura, a kind of charisma, that drew people to her. But she was also very human. A documentary about her, done over a 5-year period, depicts in gritty detail the world that was her life. As one reviewer put it, "The frail figure huddled inside the Indian sari is clearly a force, a soft-spoken lode of iron reserve. The deeply committed no-frills humanity comes through."[5] When asked what it is like to be a living saint, Mother Teresa responds, "I have to be holy in my position. That's nothing extraordinary. It's my simple duty. We have been created for that."[6]

Also depicted in the film is her visit to Beirut in 1982 at the height of the fighting between Muslims and Christians. Mother Teresa wishes to retrieve a group of spastic children who were isolated in an abandoned hospital. A priest says it's a good idea, but it's impractical because the hospital is in a free-fire zone. To which Mother Teresa responds, "It's not an idea. It's our duty." At her insistence, a cease-fire was arranged and the children were rescued.[7]

Words to Live By

Like many leaders, Mother Teresa was a powerful storyteller. Many of her writings tell of the people she has encountered and what they have taught her. Rather than assuming some kind of superior role, she paints a portrait of herself as a seeker. She was famous for telling the story about the first person to whom she ministered. The woman's body was half-eaten by rats; instead of revulsion, Mother Teresa saw "Christ in his distressing disguise."[8] And in her Nobel Peace Prize lecture she tells the story of a bedridden man whose only joy was smoking. He abstained from tobacco for a week and sent Mother Teresa $15 for the mission. "It must have been a terrible sacrifice for him but see . . . how he shared. And with that money I brought bread and I gave to those who are hungry."[9]

Although Mother Teresa was strictly Catholic in faith, she was liberal in reaching out to others, seeking to help all regardless of their faith as well as receiving aid from anyone of any faith. She also saw her ministry as taking care of the poor and sick, not as proselytizing: "Love has no other message but its own. . . . If we do any preaching, it is done with deeds, not with words. That is our witness to the gospel."[10]

A considerable body of literature is growing up around Mother Teresa. Some of her writings have been collected as inspirational texts. Another book is a collection of reflections from the famous (e.g., Senator Ted Kennedy), from religious leaders, and from ordinary people who met her only once. All of these are testaments to the power of her example, and these communications serve to extend her message further.

True to Her Beliefs

Those from the secular world found Mother Teresa a holy individual, but many of them did not agree with her doctrinaire support of the Church's position on contraception and abortion. Mother Teresa did not turn them away. Similarly, she accepted an award from dictator Baby Doc Duvalier of Haiti and laid a wreath at the tomb of Enver Hoxha, the communist tyrant of Albania. Critics assailed her. Mother Teresa was not bothered. She "saw Christ in them, and believed they could be redeemed."[11]

Deeply Human

For all the talk of Mother Teresa's saintliness, she also was very human. In excerpts from her diaries published after her death, we see a woman who is more like us - plagued by doubts. "In my soul, I feel just the terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing." Those words were from a journal she kept between 1959 and 1960, when she was urged by her confessor to keep a record of her thoughts.[12] Thirty years later, she seems much more at ease. "I have begun to love my darkness, for I believe now that is a part, a very small part, of Jesus' darkness and pain on earth."[13]

Mother Teresa writes eloquently of love as a healing force and how it is necessary to love others in order to heal their physical afflictions. She also writes of the joy of giving, doing it for love, not for duty. "God loves a joyful giver. . . . A joyful heart is a normal result of a heart burning with love. Joy is strength."[14]

And as befits someone who is in tune with herself and with others, Mother Teresa had a good sense of humor. She writes: "Someone once asked me, ‘Are you married?' And I said, ‘Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at Jesus because He can be very demanding.'"[15] Likewise she joked in her Nobel speech, "If I don't go to heaven for anything else I will be going for all the publicity [which has] made me really ready to go to heaven." [16]

Work Continues

The greatest legacy of a leader is the continuation of his or her work after he or she has passed from the scene. In the year following Mother Teresa's death, the Missionaries of Charity added some 20 new centers. Her successor, Sister Nirmala, accounted for the growth this way: "It's God's work. If it was Mother's work, maybe in the course of time it would [have ceased], but since it's God's work, it is the same."[17]

Whether God has anything to do with it is an eternal question. What there can be no question about is this: It is the example of Mother Teresa that continues to bring the poor to her missions and to draw people who are committed to serving them as she herself did.

George C. Marshall - The Great Mobilizer

"I feel I could not sleep at night with you out of the country," said Franklin Roosevelt. And with those words General George C. Marshall's lifelong ambition of commanding troops in battle was denied. Dwight Eisenhower, an officer he had developed and promoted, would get the supreme command in Europe. Roosevelt had given the choice to General Marshall himself, but, ever the soldier, Marshall had declined. The decision belonged to the commander in chief. This selfless gesture assured the president that the best man for overall command would remain in Washington.[18] As a result, Eisenhower would become the more famous of the two; after all, as Roosevelt himself once said, "Ike, you and I know who was the Chief of Staff during the last years of the Civil War but practically no one else knows. . . . I hate to think fifty years from now practically no one will know who George Marshall was."[19]

As Roosevelt conjectured, the contribution of General Marshall has faded from memory. True, World War II was won by the blood, sweat, and sacrifice of millions of citizen soldiers who were fighting for the freedom of others against the evils of totalitarianism. Yet although Marshall did not fight in the trenches, his story is equally heroic, for it was through his efforts and will that America and its soldiers received the men, material, and leadership they needed in order to wage war. While Marshall himself never took fire in this war, he sacrificed his lifelong ambition to lead troops so that he could better serve his nation and the army. In Marshall we have an example of a leader as manager for a heroic purpose; his skillful use of communications was essential to his aims and those of our nation.

The Right Man for the Job

In 1939 General Marshall was appointed army chief of staff. It was the fulfillment of a dream for a lifelong soldier who had devoted himself to the service of his country. Marshall had had a slow rise through the ranks from second lieutenant in the Philippines in 1902 through outposts in the American West, service under General "Blackjack" Pershing in World War I in France, and then service in Asia, including China. Now, as chief commander of air and ground forces, it fell to Marshall to mobilize the American military for war should it come.

The challenges that Marshall faced were enormous. While President Franklin Roosevelt was a supporter of intervention, the American people for the most part were not. Fortunately, Marshall had the organizational skills necessary for the task. The army grew from a force of less than 500,000 at the outbreak of war to 12.9 million at the end. Marshall mobilized American men, women, and material. It was he who made certain that troops were equipped for battle and that generals had the troops, supplies, and armaments that they needed in order to wage war.[20]


It is said that the modern army took shape under Marshall's guidance. He served as an instructor at the War College for several years, and he also served as chief instructional officer at Fort Benning, Georgia. Dispensing with textbook planning, Marshall pushed for more realistic exercises, in which commanders would need to make decisions with only partial information, just as on a real battlefield. In doing so, he reinvented the way the military educates its officers.[21]

One of Marshall's chief assets was his ability to pick the right person for the right job. At Fort Benning, Marshall identified future leaders and did what he could to promote them. He created the American general corps of the Second World War. His choice of military commanders was meticulous: Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Mark Clark, and George Patton were but four of many standouts - all of whom earned a place in his little black book.[22]

The Right Words of Diplomacy

Time and again Marshall proved himself adept at communicating his point of view without creating rancor, and in the process he gained respect for his position as well as for himself. With Congress, Marshall could be charming as well as informative. He was the same with the Allies, especially Britain. Having seen the folly of disunity among the Allies during World War I, he argued forcefully for a unified command during World War II. He wanted an American commander, but he was willing to put British generals into leadership positions, or even to put an American officer in a subordinate position to a British officer as a means of demonstrating a willingness to cooperate.[23]

Marshall drew a distinct line between the military and politics. Throughout the war, by virtue of his position, he was required to testify before Congress. Even though the process was time-consuming and took him away from his military duties, he prepared himself and underwent the rigor of testifying. He also ordered full cooperation with the Truman committee's investigation of military purchasing, rather than stonewalling. The result was twofold: First, Truman's committee uncovered waste and sometimes fraud and in the process ended up saving the nation billions of dollars, and second, he and Truman had the opportunity to assess each other; this paved the way for greater understanding when Truman was thrust into the presidency after Roosevelt's death.[24]

Military versus Political

Marshall also recused himself from the summits among heads of state that took place periodically throughout the war. He did not think it was wise for a military man to influence political outcomes. At the same time, Marshall was not a political neophyte. Although there were suggestions that he run for office, even for the presidency, he always declined. He knew how Washington worked, and he prided himself on his reputation for being honest and without guile.[25] Periodically, he had to undergo what must have been humiliating examinations - for example, in late 1945 during the investigation of the lack of preparedness at Pearl Harbor, and in the early 1950s when he was wrongly accused by the red-baiting McCarthyites of undermining America's resistance to communist forces, particularly in Asia.[26] With this latter charge, scurrilous though it was, Marshall took the high road, refusing to dignify McCarthy's charges with a rebuttal. His reply: "If I have to explain at this point that I am not a traitor to the United States, I hardly think it's worth it."[27]

The decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan was one that Marshall did not want to make. He fully endorsed the development of the bomb and in fact was the chief overseer of the project: General Lesley Groves reported to him. Marshall understood that the decision to drop it was one that would have profound moral consequences, and for that reason he deemed its use not a military decision, but one for the government to make. However, Marshall endorsed the use of the atomic bomb as a means of shortening the war and ultimately saving the lives of both the American soldiers and the Japanese civilians and soldiers who would be killed if Japan were invaded.[28]

The Statesman

Truman so admired Marshall that he twice called him into his cabinet, first as secretary of state and later as secretary of defense. It was in the former role that Marshall gained recognition as a humanitarian. In a speech at Harvard when he was given an honorary degree, Marshall spoke of Europe's suffering and slow recovery and its need for assistance in the wake of the war.

The remedy lies in breaking the vicious circle and restoring confidence of the European people in the economic future of their own countries and of Europe as a whole. . . . It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is not directed against any country or any doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.[29]

Direct and to the point, Marshall made the case for providing political stability by ensuring economic viability. This speech introduced the European Recovery Act, soon known as the Marshall Plan. This plan fostered cooperation among nations, staved off communist expansionism, and laid the foundation for a more united Europe. Years later, after he had retired, Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in part for his efforts at helping to rebuild Europe. Acknowledging the irony, even modest dissent, of giving a soldier an award for peace, Marshall said in his Nobel address:

The cost of war is constantly spread before me, written neatly in many ledgers whose columns are gravestones. I am greatly moved to find some means or method of avoiding another calamity of war.[30]

Compassionate Aloofness

Very few people called him George; he was always the General. He had an aloofness to him that terrified junior officers, but to Marshall it was a way of getting to the point: A commander's time is limited, and he must maximize his effectiveness.[31] Yet Marshall, like all good commanders, viewed his soldiers as people; the genesis of the USO show was Marshall's requesting entertainment for his troops stateside before the war. During the prewar mobilization, Marshall directed his staff to prepare a summary of messages that newly enlisted men were sending home; many of these messages were complaints.

Forrest Pogue, Marshall's biographer, estimates that Marshall spent "twenty minutes a day" reviewing these summaries and personally answering some of the complaints himself. Marshall also visited with the troops as well as keeping in frequent contact with those he had promoted and developed. He understood that he was mobilizing an army of civilians; the military would mold them into soldiers, but they were nonetheless civilians and wanted nothing more than to return home and resume their lives. Their sacrifice and their service were "the essence of democracy" and "what the fighting was all about."[32]

Saying No to Yes

Another of Marshall's traits was a willingness to listen. General Omar Bradley tells of being called into Marshall's office in 1939, a week after the outbreak of the war in Europe. Marshall expressed his disappointment in Bradley and his fellow officers: "You haven't disagreed with a single thing I have done all week." The next day the officers returned with a recommendation that in Bradley's recollection seemed "questionable." To which Marshall replied, "Now that is what I want. Unless I hear all of the arguments against something I am not sure whether I have made the right decision or not."[33]

After Pearl Harbor, Marshall called Ike to his office and told him to draft a plan to save the Philippines. Ike took a few hours, then reported that it was not possible but suggested alternatives. Marshall said, "Eisenhower, the department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well but feel compelled always to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they have done."[34] To General Marshall, leadership was not about pleasing the boss or saying the right words; leadership was doing the right thing. This was the creed by which he lived.

"Greatest Living American"

Anyone who came into contact with George Marshall respected him. His sense of virtue was palpable. Throughout his long years in the military, often doing jobs he did not particularly want, he did his duty. His greatest disappointment was failing to obtain divisional command. He was a lifelong staff officer, who served the army and the nation well, and he was worthy of Harry Truman's appellation: "the greatest living American."

[1]Lou Cannon, President Reagan: A Role of a Lifetime., pp. 46, 51.

[2]Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

[3]Pat Williams with Michael Weinreb, Marketing Your Dreams: Business and Life Lessons from Bill Veeck, Baseball's Marketing Genius, p. 173.

[4]"Mother Teresa," Economist, Sept. 11, 1997.

[5]Leo Seligsohn, "A Portrait of Mother Teresa in Action," review of Mother Teresa, a film by Ann Petri and Jeanette Petri; Richard Attenborough, narrator and consultant.



[8]"Mother Teresa."

[9]Mother Teresa, "Nobel Peace Prize Lecture," Dec. 10, 1979.

[10]Mother Teresa, No Greater Love, ed. Becky Benenate and Joseph Durepos, with a foreword by Thomas Moore, p. 179.

[11]"Mother Teresa."

[12]Laurinda Keys, "Mother Teresa's Writings Reveal Doubts about God," Seattle Times, Sept. 15, 2001; quotes were from Vidayajyoti (Light of Knowledge), a Jesuit journal published in New Delhi, India, March 2001.


[14]Mother Teresa, No Greater Love, p. 33.

[15]Ibid., p. 34.

[16]Mother Teresa, "Nobel Peace Prize Lecture."

[17]Neelesh Misra, "Shared Burden: Mother Teresa's Nuns Carry Out Work," Associated Press, Orange County Register, Sept. 5, 1998.

[18]Ed Cary, George C. Marshall: Soldier and Statesman, pp. 4-13 (Roosevelt quote, p. 13).

[19]Ibid., pp. 9-13 (Roosevelt quote, p. 9).


[21]Robert D. Kaplan, Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, pp. 13-14, citing Barbara Tuchman, Stillwell and the American Experience in China. Also Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall: Education of a General (1880-1939) , pp. 247-262.

[22]Pogue, George C. Marshall: Education of a General, pp. 247-262.

[23]Cary, George C. Marshall, p. 274.

[24]Ibid., pp. 185-187.

[25]Ibid., pp. 402-403.

[26]Ibid., p. 559.

[27]Ibid., pp. 721-725.

[28]Ibid., pp. 537-550.

[29]George C. Marshall, "Text of the Marshall Plan Speech," June 5, 1947.

[30]Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall: Statesman 1945-1959, pp. 506-507.

[31]Cary, George C. Marshall, pp. 6-7.

[32]Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall: Ordeal and Hope (1939-1942), with a foreword by General Omar N. Bradley, pp. 114-119.

[33]Omar N. Bradley, foreword to George C. Marshall: Ordeal and Hope (1939-1942), by Forrest C. Pogue, p. ix.

[34]Cary, George C. Marshall, pp. 265-266.

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