An 18 Inch Bridge

DSN9164-2-MI attended a meeting once where there was a hotly debated topic.  The issues were large.  There appeared to be a lot at stake.  There were clearly two sides.  One group had logic and clear thinking on its side.  But emotions were running high.  The logical group kept calm and collected as they presented the reasons why the issue should be decided in one direction.  The emotional group had no supporting evidence but they kept getting louder and louder.

It was an amazing thing.  As the emotional leader increased volume, it intimidated people. The logical group’s arguments were clear and made sense.  The emotional group was clear, but had no real support other than to sway people by using a loud voices – which they did.  In the end the vote went the emotional way.  Within two weeks everyone regretted the decision.  The decision was final, and the emotional leader ‘got his way’.  There was no way to go back.  That decision became the undoing of the organization.

I saw two important lessons. The first: to sway people you have to connect to their emotions.  Logic is good and necessary, but it can be more convincing when it appeals to emotions.  The best communicators recognize this and appeal to people with data supported by stories.  Information must connect to the heart to be convincing.  There must be an 18 inch bridge from the head to the heart if facts are going to convince people and make a difference.

Abraham Lincoln gave the facts of a divided nation needing to be reunited.  He made one of the most famous American speeches in history.  He connected head and heart by telling the story of the vision of our forefathers.  He appealed to the hearts of those gathered to honor the fallen of both sides with a renewed fervor and zeal for unity.  He constructed the 18 inch bridge and won the minds and the hearts of the people.

The other lesson is that great leaders are not the loudest voice.  Rather they facilitate the best dialogue.  In the meeting there was one side that got louder and louder.  They did not discuss, but accused.  They had no supporting evidence; instead they attacked the differing viewpoint.  The ungrounded accusations did plant the seed of doubt.  They began to intimidate people.  To stand opposed would risk ridicule and possible embarrassment. The loud voice was very intimidating.  It won.

The loudest voice won, but the organization lost.  The decision split leaders apart.  The CEO and several ranking officers left.  The organization suffered and has not recuperated. The leader with the loudest voice eventually left in shame.

Great leaders take responsibility.  They connect the head and heart, they don’t just sway the heart.  Make certain that the loudest voice comes from a true leader.  Great leaders don’t intimidate and they aren’t just the loudest voice.  They do facilitate the best dialogue. Great leadership is about dialogues – not monologues.

Points to Ponder –

Do I inspire dialogue or do I present a monologue?

When pressed by a situation do I get loud and intimidating or do I facilitate open communication?

How well do I build the 18 inch bridge from the head to the heart?

Copyright 2013 LeadersBridge

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One Response to An 18 Inch Bridge


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