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Summary: Results don't happen unless people take action. But there are right and wrong ways to take action. Here are eight ways of right action that every leader must challenge the people they lead to take.
In Leadership, The Eight Ways Of Right Action. (Part 1)
by Brent Filson
The ancient Greeks had a saying: "When Aschines speaks, the people say, 'How well he speaks,' but when Demosthenes speaks, the people say, 'Let's march against Philip!'".
To get the best results as a leader, the people you lead should be saying in one way or the other after you speak, "Let's march!"
When you speak to people as a leader, it's not what you say that's really important, what's important is the action people take after you have had your say. And if you are not having the people you lead take the right action, you're giving short shrift to your leadership, their trust in you, and their desire to take action for you.
Here are the 8 ways of right action to get people marching in the right way for the right purpose at the right time in the right direction.
I'll delineate the first four ways in part one of this two-part article then in part two, I'll describe the last four ways.
Action must be:
(1) PHYSICAL. Action is not what the audience thinks or feels. It is what the audience actually does. Usually, the audience takes action with their feet and hands and tools. When thinking of what action you want your audience to take, imagine their actually doing something physical, and you are on track. Getting your audience to take right action involves challenging them to do one specific thing. When Ronald Reagan said in his speech at the Berlin Wall, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" he was delivering a call-to-action that was a stunning turning point in the Cold War. In your day to day leadership activities, you are probably not meeting such daunting challenges as winning a war, but you can use the principle to raise the effectiveness of your leadership to much higher levels.
(2) PURPOSEFUL. People who take action are useless to an organization. It is only those people who take action for results who are useful. Make sure their action has purpose. The secret of success is constancy of purpose. When your audience does take action, they should know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. Purpose in leadership talk has three aspects: reason, feeling and awareness. People should understand the rational justification for the action; they should have an emotional commitment to the action; and be fully mindful that they are taking action.
(3) HONEST. If you trick people into taking action or lie to get them to take action, you'll damage that element on which all motivation is based, trust. Afterward, you may be able to order them to do a job, but you will never motivate them. Be honest with yourself in developing your call-to-action. Marcus Aurelius said, "Never esteem anything as an advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect." Be honest with them in challenging them to act. I do not recommend this merely on trustworthy grounds but on eminently practical ones as well. After all, we do not know how good we are as leaders unless we are challenging the people to be better than they think they are. And they cannot be persuaded to accept that challenge if they think we're deceiving them or that you are deceiving yourself.
(4) MEANINGFUL. Action gives meaning to the emotion your audience feels. Emotion alone cannot get results. It's action that gets results. Action validates emotion, and vice versa.
Leaders who find little meaning in their jobs or the results associated with those jobs, shouldn't be leaders, or they should change jobs and/or results. Most leaders understand this. But few leaders understand that meaning also involves the jobs of the people they are leading and the attitudes of those people toward those jobs and the results the jobs aim for.
Your cause should be meaningful to the people who must carry it out. If it is only your cause and not their cause, the action they take will get insufficient results. Your cause will be meaningful to them when that actions they take to meet the challenges of that cause are solving the problems of THEIR needs. So, before you challenge them to take action, identify their needs and the problem solving actions.
2005 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
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 has been helping leaders of top companies worldwide get audacious results. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get a free white paper: "49 Ways To Turn Action Into Results," at http://www.actionleadership.com
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