Breaking the rules doesn’t always mean that you’re breaking bad. Sometimes it pays to do the opposite and forego common sense.
Great leaders don’t always act serious.
It’s easier to persuade and influence others if you’re fun to listen to. Great leaders spice up any serious review of the issues with stories of their own experience. This reveals expertise in the challenge at hand. Stories from leaders give employees a glimpse into who they are–and people crave intimacy with a speaker. Stories are the best tools to put people at ease, link current issues to personal experience and future trends, and explore the emotion and meaning behind the data. Also, stories illustrate your points–they literally paint word pictures.
Great leaders don’t focus on what’s going right.
The human mind tends to fixate on problems: rubbernecking is a case in point. Great leaders put time and thought into the problems they and their teams face. They put thought and time into crafting the best way to present and explain those problems. Then, they put thought and time into the solutions they will propose for those problems. Why? Because a well-defined problem elicits feelings, and a proposed solution elicits creative thinking and problem solving from your team. No one can avoid difficulties–so don’t avoid talking about them.
Great leaders don’t worry about being too thorough.
The people around you aren’t sponges, eager to soak up data and detail. Great leaders know that the more one talks, the less people listen. Or, as the old saying goes, “The mind cannot absorb what the behind cannot endure.”
Great leaders don’t focus on the content.
Winston Churchill, no slouch as a speaker, said that to give a good talk, you should have a dynamic opening and a powerful closing–and you should put those two things as close together as possible. Keep the body of your talk high level. Work on your opening and closing. Great leaders don’t focus on the content. They focus on what the content means to the audience.
Also, they know it’s not always wrong to emphasize style over substance. In 2010, Amy Cuddy, an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, was quoted as saying that the success of a start-up’s pitch to venture-capital investors depends on nonverbal factors such as, “how comfortable and charismatic you are. The predictors of who actually gets the money are all about how you present yourself, and nothing to do with content.”
Great leaders don’t take unnecessary risks.
I’ve seen many people try to inflate their reputation at some big event by trying to tackle a topic beyond their professional reach. I’ve done this myself, and fallen on my face. Talk about what you know from your own experience. For instance, don’t base your talk on a magazine article you skimmed in the dentist’s office, or a chapter of a book you read. Go with your own stuff.
Great leaders don’t come across as powerful and all-knowing.
When you open your inbox, you click on messages from people you know or trust. The same principle holds for speakers: you listen and respond to talks delivered by people you know and like. These people have earned your trust by the way they present themselves and their ideas. Speak to build trust with your audience. When your speech is honest and sincere, spoken in the language of the audience, and addresses an issue important to your listeners, you will succeed. In the end, you do well by being real and doing good.