By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.
What can I say? I’m an Abraham Lincoln geek! Abraham Lincoln is one of my heroes. From as early as I can remember, I have always held Honest Abe in high esteem. Not only did I grow up in the “Land of Lincoln,” I have read numerous books about him and have visited his birthplace in Kentucky, the homestead where he grew up in Indiana, New Salem, IL, where he lived as a young man, his home in Springfield, IL, the bed where he died across the street from the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C., and other Lincoln landmarks. Abraham Lincoln—the life he led, the man he was, the things he accomplished and the words he spoke are all sources of inspiration. Lincoln’s oratory skill is something I aspire to. His words carried great power during his life and still do to this day.
In 1858, a series of seven debates between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas took place around the state of Illinois. At the time, U.S. senators were elected by the state legislature. Lincoln and Douglas were attempting to help their respective parties win control over the Illinois legislature which in turn would determine which one of them would become the next U.S. senator for Illinois. The debates previewed the issues that Lincoln would face when he became president in 1860. The primary issue of all the debates was slavery.
Large crowds gathered to hear the debates as slavery was such an important topic of the times. Newspaper coverage was intense and articles were reprinted in newspapers across the nation. Lincoln ended up losing his bid to the senate, and later edited the texts of all the debates and published them in a book. The widespread coverage of the debates and popularity of the book helped Lincoln receive the nomination for President of the United States in 1860 which led to his becoming President.
The very first Lincoln-Douglas debate took place in Ottawa, IL, on August 21, 1858, at 2:00 pm. It just so happened that I was in Ottawa, IL, last week on August 21, and I went to the town square around 2:00 in the afternoon where that first debate is memorialized with a statue. It was incredible to stand there and to absorb the history on the same date and time it took place 156 years ago.
Abraham Lincoln provides us with a great example of leadership and the power of words.
Leadership communication can influence others with impact. Adam Grant, Ph.D., at the Wharton School of Business, examined that impact by having the leader of a company give a motivational speech to a team of new employees at one of the company’s call centers. What happened? Afterwards, revenue at that call center had a nice increase, 300% to be exact, as compared to a control group that didn’t hear the speech. Now that’s an impact! Words to have power! Many companies would be very satisfied with this result, but wait, there’s more!
A team hearing a message from the leader AND a beneficiary of the work being done at the company increased revenue by a whopping 700%! Leadership communication can be highly effective, and hearing a similar message from someone who has been authentically affected and benefited from the content of the leader’s message puts that leadership communication effectiveness on steroids. Leadership effectiveness through effective communication includes finding a beneficiary to help your message echo through the halls of your organization for greater revenue and greater success. After all, who better to share your message than a person who has benefited from it?
All great leaders need to be great orators. Lincoln’s oratory skills led him to become the 16th President of the United States and a President who had a tremendous impact on shaping our country’s history. This wouldn’t have been possible if not for his effective and compelling communication skills. Likewise, today’s leaders need to be effective communicators to spread their message and motivate their teams to have a positive impact on the world.
What is your message? Who is your beneficiary who can help echo that message? Once you know the answers to those questions, in collaboration with that beneficiary, you can deliver a powerful message with a huge impact!
Words = Power = Revenue
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