I recently ran a Speak Like A Leader Bootcamp for a group of ambitious business leaders all keen to up-level their powers of influence.
I’ve packaged our insights into 9 laws to influence, each of which is designed to accelerate your own power in business.
The world is drowning in mediocrity and noise. Puffed-up voices dominate, with little value to back up their promise.
This lack of substance is compounded by our hyper-charged, fast-paced nature of business. Leaders can feel like they’re fighting insurmountable odds as they clamor for attention in a world increasingly reluctant to care.
That’s why it’s imperative, now more than ever, to build a voice that is vital and influential; a voice that can cut through the confusion and unequivocally get to the point. Because without clarity, you’re just another blind person leading the blind.
It does no good to be a brilliant technician if you lack the skills to clearly articulate the value of your business. As the face of your brand, it’s your responsibility to model excellent communication skills, not only for your own success but as an example to your teams.
The Speak like a Leader Bootcamp teaches exactly that. The training centers around clarity of vision, strength of conviction and integrity of purpose. Because when all these factors align, our voice finally commands respect.
Enter the 9 Laws….
- CLARIFY AN EXCITING VISION.
Many leaders are not clear on where their business is headed. They cannot articulate an exciting vision and instead leave their audiences flat.
Yet, without this clear direction, we end up with confused and demotivated teams. What’s worse, some businesses select directions that are less than inspiring. They aim for low-hanging fruit and miss out on the greater opportunity due to a lack of imagination.
Pick an exciting vision, and one that will get you out of bed each day inspired to keep working. Get really clear on exactly where you want your business and teams to be within a certain timeframe and also why this is important. We need to expand our imagination to consider possibilities we ordinarily wouldn’t think of day-to-day. Because vision is not rooted in the ordinary, but in the extraordinary. As Oscar Wilde put it:
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
If you cannot articulate a clear and inspired vision, you become yet another easy target open to manipulation. You’ll be led in this direction and that, and won’t have a handle on where to steer your own ship. Your teams will flail under your lack of leadership.
So, grab the helm with a firm hand. Lead your teams by giving them clear and assured direction. Set solid boundaries and tell people exactly where you stand. They may not like you in the short term, but they’ll respect you long term.
2. MOVE FROM VICTIM TO CREATOR.
We live in a culture that celebrates grievance. Everyone has something to gripe about, and the loudest victims are the ones that get the most attention. Bemoaning our victimhood certainly seems a surefire route to success. But only in the short-term, for adopting such a resentful mentality only decimates our power over the long run. When you identify with people and situations of the past, you will always remain a slave to their limiting perceptions. You’ll think the same as you’ve been conditioned to think, you’ll feel the same as you’ve always felt and you’ll speak in the same familiar patterns. Your past becomes your predictable future and nothing ever changes.
You are not a victim of your past — unless you chose to be. But you have to recognize that it is a choice, and more than likely a low-level choice that will hold you back.
To have true power when you communicate, you must move from victim to creator and speak from this position of strength. It is you who decides who you will become irrespective of other people’s expectations. The power is in your hands.
So, start to imagine the thoughts, emotions and behaviors of this new greater you. How does the best version of yourself show up? What do they think, feel and ultimately say under pressure? Define a more empowered role for yourself. Then, rehearse it. You have to keep applying your new behavioral choices in real-time till they become second nature.
The difference between winners and losers is simply this: practice. You must practice these new choices every day to teach your body both physically and emotionally who you want to become and how it’s going to be from now on. Without this commitment, you’ll never advance. You’ll remain just another dispirited mediocrity clinging to the past for relevance. So, ditch the past and seize life. Speak, not as a victim, but as a creator. You have the power. You just have to recognize it.
3. BE NON-REACTIVE.
When a person feels intimidated by another person or situation, they manifest their subservience through hyper-reactivity and immediacy of movement. This lack of stillness unveils a loss of confidence and power.
In any negotiation, and despite the inner storm of emotions, you must become effortlessly non-reactive. You need to distinguish yourself as the embodiment of stillness under pressure as this is perceived as strength and fearlessness.
You do this by slowing down your movements to indicate a level of detachment unblemished by any circumstance. When your breath and body are calm, you demonstrate clear control over your physical and emotional self. This is power.
Calming the nervous system is the key to immunizing yourself from undue pressure exerted by others. You respond at your own pace and do not allow anyone to dictate the frame. That way, you can unrelentingly exercise the appearance of authority regardless of the reality of the power dynamics at play. Your non-reactivity will give the impression that you have control when in reality you may be feeling vulnerable.
The problem for most of us is that we have no idea how to self-regulate to this masterful degree when the heat is on. The nervous system has been so out of balance for so long that we mistake its hyper-reactivity for normal. And because everyone else is operating at a similarly angst-ridden level, none of us notice how dysregulated we’ve all become.
But, without emotional self-control, we default to the victim program. When we’re stuck in historic neurological hardwiring, we’ll be too unstable to become someone greater than ourselves. All we can ever do is obediently replay the limiting program of the past.
So, when the pressure is on and the nervous system starts to fire, you have to immediately STOP. You must give yourself permission to pause, even when all about you are rushing, so that you can finally breathe and break the program. Don’t be fooled by the hyper-reactivity of everyone else. It is not the norm and nor is it an effective state. To the contrary, it renders people predictable. Get out of the stress response as fast as you can. Once you’ve successfully unhooked from the usual emotional triggers, you’re back in the game and can play at a superior level. You regain access to your strategic thinking and can start to make more powerful choices.
It takes a lot of energy to stay conscious enough to catch your triggers and stay non-reactive. But if you’re persistent and keep reminding yourself that you’ll refuse to give your power away to other people, then you can use that power to leverage a situation to your advantage. You can channel your energy to look strong, sound strong and build the influence you crave.
4. USE SILENCE IN YOUR SPEECH.
Silence, if used well, is power. It communicates strength and stability, which is good news for introverts. You don’t need to be a loudmouth or puff yourself up to get your point across. You can stay softly spoken and quiet, yet wield much personal power.
It is often said that the loudest person in the room is the weakest. Whilst that’s a generalization and some situations necessitate a projected voice, it is often the more reflective emotionally unreactive types that possess real power. They’re not easily riled by others and their sparing use of decibels means that their words have 10x more impact when they actually do speak up.
Speech that is permeated with silence indicates authority. If you can take the opportunity to pause and hold the tension, you show strength of character. Because a confident person won’t rush for anyone.
Most of us do the opposite. We rush through our messaging, cramming as much detail into a few short moments without any room for pause. All we want is to get to the end of our overly elaborate point — and move on. But this only serves to signal that our message isn’t worth attention. If we ourselves don’t give our message the attention it deserves, no one else will.
Try to pause more. Before you even speak, pause for a few moments and expect to be listened to. When we worry that we won’t be listened to, we launch into speech and drive through our message as fast as possible. Yet, in doing so, we deny our audience the time to digest our words and they often tune out. Instead, if we pause before we speak, we demonstrate that what’s about to come next is considered, precise and powerful. We refocus people on our message and encourage them to consider its meaning.
Without silence, words lack substance. They become forgettable noise. Master communicators know this. They are experts at wielding silence so that the words they do choose have weight.
5. SPEAK SIMPLY WITHOUT EMBELLISHMENT.
A powerful person doesn’t waste words. They say less, not more, and speak with razor-sharp precision. When you can speak directly and to the point without embellishment or apology, your message is imbued with powerful credence.
You must discipline yourself to cut the linguistic fat. Use the fewest words to convey your meaning, and if it’s possible to cut a word, cut it. Don’t waste time agonizing over a clever turn of phrase if it contributes nothing to meaning. Be ruthless and edit out the unnecessary.
Most people use plenty of words to say very little. They preface their speech with filler words, meaningless hyperbole and over-explanations. But rather than cover up a lack of confidence, these extra syllables simply showcase their doubt.
It takes real skill to say less. The art of simplicity requires enormous self-control. We must learn to tolerate the discomfort we feel in the silence, and rather than clamor to fill the void, we must hold back. Because if we don’t, we come across as weak and easy to exploit.
Remember that information is power and we can use silence to temper the flow of information in any negotiation. By holding silence, you can control what you reveal. You own the narrative and give yourself the space needed to curate your most unequivocal message.
So, discipline yourself to stay present so that you can guard against your own imprecision. Brevity is power. Whilst your peers drown in waffle, you’ll vibrate with a rare sincerity that cannot be faked.
6. USE SILENCE IN YOUR DECISIONS.
Ours is an age of quick gratification. People are so impatient for results that they refuse to sit in the silence required to create an effective strategy. When you can’t listen out for the quiet nuances that elevate your decisions, you sabotage your own power. Abstract intelligence will be lost in a sea of impulsive haste.
Impatience does not create an effective leader or power in speech. When we act before thinking, we’re just another slave to emotions — and it’s obvious. We may seem impassioned in the moment and might impress those naive enough to mistake impulsivity for strength, yet in reality, we will be lost in confusion and unable to make quality decisions.
Silence gives you back the power to breed effective strategy. But you have to master your patience so you can tolerate the silence required. The most powerful decisions are made outside of the echo chamber and away from chaos.
Silence also gives you time to interrogate your emotions and consider how proportionate your response is. You can strategically evaluate all choices, envision the numerous iterations of what could happen, and project yourself to vantage points forward in time. Only then can you decide the best course of action.
If a challenging situation should still catch you by surprise, you will be able to adjust, regain self-control and appear nonreactive. The fact that you’ve already walked yourself through each situation will put you in good stead to handle the unexpected whilst still seeming undisturbed.
A person who can articulate an effective strategy that has been bred from patience has unrelenting power. As John Dryden puts it:
“Beware the fury of a patient man.”
7. LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD.
Never give your power away to other people by putting them on a pedestal. The moment you see others as having the power to make you happy or successful is the moment you become weak. You are at their mercy. You may even find yourself compelled to be agreeable and “nice” to avoid confrontation. Or you may be too triggered to push back and assert your boundaries. And beneath the surface resentments will fester. While understandable, it is this very resentment that signals your lack of power.
To be taken seriously, you must develop some bite. Remind yourself that you do not need a single person, situation or deal to make you feel successful. In fact, in any negotiation, you too are assessing the other person to see if they are a fit for your requirements. And, if not, you will walk away. Because why settle for less than your worth? So, before you enter a high-octane situation, tell yourself you don’t need the deal. If you don’t get it, it doesn’t bother you. And if you do get it, it will be on your terms, and you won’t pay too much. When you can say no, you’re free.
To develop this level of courage, you must cultivate a more emotionally detached perspective of others. Rather than try to impress people or seek their approval, lean back and demonstrate a dispassionate presence. This isn’t about being rude, but about refusing to jump through hoops to please another. When you take back control, you elevate your status. You’re no longer easily cornered or put in a box. You are a person of power.
8. LISTEN MORE THAN YOU TALK.
Most people try to dominate the conversation. They say too much, reveal too much and endlessly opine to hear the sound of their own voice. They are mostly disinterested in what you have to say and want to get back to their favorite subject: them.
People will invent and exaggerate stories to impress you. They’ll often parrot what they’ve heard online without any deep understanding of what they’re talking about. It’s mostly secondhand information regurgitated to sound clever.
But as the Tao says: “Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.”
When in conversation, say less and listen more to imply power. Rather than waste energy fretting over how you come across, learn instead about others by observing their motivations. What are their body language habits and facial expressions? Do their eyes dilate? Are they swallowing, blinking or frowning? Watch out for slight changes in the muscles of the face and notice if the person is uncomfortable. You don’t have to dominate the conversation because you’ve no need to compete. Stay secure and quiet — and observe.
If you’re quiet enough, you’ll be able to read between the lines and detect what others are secretly thinking, often unbeknownst even to them. With that intel, you can lead the conversation in the direction you want, not by saying too much, but by asking simple questions and guiding people along.
The most powerful business people hone their communication skills by improving their powers of observation. When you can deeply understand your counterparts, your strategies will have far more influence. You’ll know what to say and when to say it, and you can be far more strategic with your actions.
9. BECOME A SELF-VALIDATING ORGANISM.
If you believe other people have to approve of you before you can feel good, then you’re back to the victim program. It is in fact an affirmation that says, “I’m not okay. I need others to approve of me in order to feel secure.” Gradually you’ll become the manifestation of other people’s preferences, subject of course to all their fickle whims and power trips.
No person or thing must get in the way of your vision. You must back yourself regardless of what anyone thinks. To be accepted, accept yourself.
The challenge here is our hardwired need to belong coupled with our fear of rejection. If we speak as we are and not as we should be, we risk the judgment of our tribe. And, without a proper system of self-regulation, it’s almost impossible for people to tolerate this rejection. Far easier to default to our unconscious people-pleasing program where we feel safe, acceptable and agreeable. But at a huge cost: our authentic voice.
This explains why, when we are called upon to excel under pressure, rather than actually rise, we scramble to fit in and say the “right” thing. We feel like a constant performance puppet in search of validation.
But while we’re busy giving away our power, we lose our clarity of vision and direction. We lower our status and fail to command the respect we deserve.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
We can take our power back. We have to reject conformity, think for ourselves and tolerate pushback. This is the only gateway to vitality and conviction.
In fact, as you build your personal power, the more naysayers you will attract. Most people prefer to live quietly dispiriting lives as guardians of the status quo. They will be the first to feel threatened by your power. Because as you rise, you expose their fear of change and their only solution will be to bring you down.
Don’t let the weakness of others stop you and never seek their approval. Go a step further and be grateful that you can’t please everyone. It means you’re advancing in a powerful direction.
When you can speak from this place of assurance, you’ll feel your own influence. And you’ll never again have to ask — how do I command respect? You just will.
It’s hard to be confident when you don’t feel internally solid. But you will still appear strong by maintaining silence, containing your emotions and disciplining your psychology. And with enough practice, you’ll soon be able to communicate with genuine strength without having to fake it.
The key is projecting irrefutable calm. People will see from how you move and talk that you are in control. Intellectually they will think you are strong, but at a subconscious level, they will know you are strong.
Few possess this silent power. They constantly give themselves away mentally, physically and emotionally. They ramble, fidget, seek reassurance and act out their emotional chaos.
But by wielding the incredible power of silence and with the committed practice of these advanced strategies, you too can speak with greater potency in any business conversation.
Because when you can do that, you’re more likely to attract success.