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A Leadership Lesson: Two Guys With Guns

By Brent Filson

Raymond Chandler author of the famous Philip Marlowe detective stories advised writers suffering from writers' block: "Whenever you get stuck, have two guys walk through the door with guns."

Leadership has its own "leader's block." All leaders now and then get a good dose of it. You're sailing along in your job getting the results you want when, for whatever reason or for no reason you can discern, you come to a screeching halt and can't go any farther. You get stuck on getting the same results. You get stuck on motivating people. You're stuck on motivating yourself.

Being stuck, take advice from Raymond Chandler: Have two guys walk through the door with guns!

Chandler was talking about shaking things up in the writer's head and on the written page.

Here's the way you can have the leadership equivalent of Chandler's advice: shake things up in your job and career simply by giving Leadership Talks.

My experience working with thousands of leaders world wide for the past two decades teaches me that most leaders are screwing up their careers.

On a daily basis, these leaders are getting the wrong results or the right results in the wrong ways.

Interestingly, they themselves are choosing to fail. They're actively sabotaging their own careers.

Leaders commit this sabotage for a simple reason: They make the fatal mistake of choosing to communicate with presentations and speeches -- not Leadership Talks.

In terms of boosting one's career, the difference between the two methods of leadership communication is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

Look at it this way: There's a hierarchy of verbal persuasion. The lowest parts (least effective) are presentations and speeches. Primarily, they communicate information.

But the highest part of the hierarchy of verbal persuasion, the most effective way to communicate as a leader, is through the Leadership Talk.

The Leadership Talk not only communicates information. It does something much more important than what speeches/presentations do.

Now here's the key: The Leadership Talk has you, the leader, establish a deep, human, emotional connection with people - so important in motivating them to achieve results.

Why is this connection important in shaking things up? Simply, it's better to motivate people to get a job done than to order them.

Once you understand the Leadership Talk, you'll find it's indispensable to your leadership. You'll never go back to giving presentations/speeches again; for no other single tool can make that motivation happen as effectively and quickly and have long lasting impact than the Leadership Talk.

The Leadership Talk is the greatest results-generator of all. That's because it works in relationships. That's what great leadership is about. Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.

Having people be so motivated by your leadership that they become your cause leader(s) in achieving more results faster, continually.

Leadership Talks can be formal ways of communicating but mostly they are informal. Unlike a speech, they are usually interactive. They can be delivered anywhere: at a conference table, over lunch, at a water cooler, across a desk.

(One of the best Leadership Talks I have witnessed was given by a plant supervisor to one of his team members at a company picnic while they sat on the back of a truck, sipping beers.)

And in many cases, an effective Leadership Talk can be given when roles are reversed, when the audience speaks to the speaker.

Here are a few:

When Churchill said, "We will fight on the beaches... " That was a leadership talk.

When Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you... " that was a leadership talk.

When Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" That was a leadership talk.

You can come up with a lot of examples too. Go back to those moments when the words of a leader inspired people to take ardent action, and you've probably put your finger on an authentic leadership talk.

Mind you, I'm not just talking about great leaders of history. I'm also talking about the leaders in your organizations. After all, leaders speak 15 to 20 times a day: everything from formal speeches to informal chats. When those interactions are leadership talks, not just speeches or presentations, the effectiveness of those leaders is dramatically increased.

Throughout your career, you'll now and then get stuck in your job. When you do, remember Raymond Chandler. Then remember the Leadership Talk: the Leadership Talk is the organizational equivalent of having two guys walk through the door with guns. But don't just use Leadership Talks only when you're stuck. Use it many times daily throughout your career, and you'll find that leader's block is a thing of the past.

2005 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

PERMISSION TO REPUBLISH: This article may be republished in newsletters and on web sites provided attribution is provided to the author, and it appears with the included copyright, resource box and live web site link. Email notice of intent to publish is appreciated but not required: mail to:

About The Author

The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. - and for more than 20 years has been helping leaders of top companies worldwide get audacious results. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get a free white paper: "49 Ways To Turn Action Into Results," at


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