“You can’t handle the truth!” So said Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men.”
When was the last time you believed one of our political leaders? Believed they were speaking from the heart? They consistently use phrases such as “to be honest with you” or “to be precise” and all the other filler-phrases politicians seem hellbent on using time and time again. Some people in business do just as badly.
When have you ever believed that a politician truly cared about what they were saying?
Churchill. Mandela. Martin Luther King. You can tell they cared by the emotion and feeling they conveyed – they meant every word. You could tell they had a truthful intention. They had what I call an emotional-intent. A feeling-driven reason for saying whatever they were saying.
Their public speaking was driven by a higher purpose. More than just saying words people might want to hear.
Seriously though, when will politicians learn? People are sick and tired of sound-bite politics. Of course, the media doesn’t help. They love the headlines. But let’s say we ignore the media’s influence for a bit.
What does it take to be a trustworthy leader?
It takes balls. It takes courage. Of course knowledge. Good decision making, and bad ones too. Above all else, realness – humility.
Yes, knowing who you are (your story) and knowing how to communicate what you stand for (your beliefs) will ensure you stand out from the crowd, for the right reasons.
Some famous business leaders know who they are personally, and they live their higher-purpose. I can think of plenty but two spring to mind, Steve Jobs and Simon Sinek. Part of it too is having the courage to say “sorry I messed up. But here is how I am going to fix it.” And meaning it!
Unfortunately, in our country the politics kicks in – people are vilified for making a mistake. The context in which political leaders operate is ruthless – driven by our insatiable appetite for sound-bite politics and scape-goats.
What’s the answer to the truth of our political leaders?
Trustworthy leaders are themselves, and that is what we believe in. They use their emotion and feeling in their story to convey who they are and what they believe in.
But politicians must talk manifesto? One could argue they are given a “script” – told what their core messages must be – what to say – and usually by some comms person, who probably comes from a media background (sound-bite queen).
They must convey the core messages (the manifesto points) using feeling. They must use emotion (appropriately) to emphasis the impact of the message.
Here’s how, say it:
- With purpose. With meaning. Believe in what you are saying, or don’t say it. I am not just talking about what I call the external skills – the tone of voice, body language, eye contact – or lack thereof – use words that mean something to you the speaker, and that relate to the core message.
- With feeling. Search your feelings (I sound like Yoda) and get to understand what they are in relation to what you are proposing for people. Find the emotion that helps convey the message. Some call this self-awareness. I call it paying attention. Paying attention to how I feel in each moment, and how I feel about what I am saying. We connect with this on a deeper level – we identify with this – because both sides of our brain get fired up. Our imagination and feeling side, as well as our logic and rational side. It’s the science of good storytelling.
- With belief. Conviction. Gone are the conviction politicians. Where are they? Love em or hate them. We’ve ended up with conciliatory leaders. Think Martin Luther King’s “I had a dream” speech. He didn’t stand up and read from a piece of paper, or give us war and peace either, when it came to how the African-American movement was going to happen. But he told the world what he believed in, emotively.
Unfortunately, a perceived truthfulness is saying what you think people want to hear. Instead know, and say what you feel. Real truth breeds trustworthiness. It is strength with humility. It is to speak with feeling and the strength of your conviction. This will transform the truth of our political leaders, and build trustworthiness.
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