Being clear is a hallmark of effective communication. Without clarity, it’s easy to be misunderstood or not taken seriously. One might expect leaders at every level to make clear speech a priority in his or her personal and professional development.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. In fact, the opposite is often true.
Just listen to many of our political, business, and church leaders. Every day we endure filibuster-type answers to simple questions, jargon-laced hyperbole, and distorted facts.
Contrast that approach with one of the best leadership examples of clarity – President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
The speech was prepared to dedicate a new national cemetery in Gettysburg to commemorate the horrific battle fought there earlier that year. Lincoln had less than two weeks to prepare. According to historians, he finished the speech on the morning he would deliver it.
Lincoln’s address is remarkable for several reasons.
- First, he summarized his thoughts into a very brief set of remarks. Each word and phrase were chosen for maximum clarity and impact. When a leader filters their instructions, intentions, or aspirations the essence of the message is easier to remember and share.
- He acknowledged the grief of a battle-weary nation, yet reminded everyone of the work that remained. Leaders who are clear when communicating, show the gaps between current reality and future opportunity. This inspires a response.
- Lincoln’s speech includes the famous line “resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain,” a clear call to action. When leaders aren’t clear, their communication becomes fuzzy instructions and ambiguous plans.
Few of us can craft a speech like Lincoln’s and that’s not really my point.
We need more leaders who will incorporate Lincoln’s techniques that made his address so clear and effective.
- Keep your thoughts short,
- Create a clear gap between where things are and where they could be, and
- Offer a compelling reason to change the current direction or continue the fight onward.
Clear communication is what sets leaders apart from the crowd. Stop viewing clarity as your enemy!
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