As they say, pressure makes diamonds. This should mean that there are lots of gems being made right now as we learn to cope with this ghastly virus.
I hope so because in a few short week’s lives have been lost, radical change has overwhelmed everyday life, most businesses are being challenged, and entire industries have been completely frozen.
In times like these leaders really need to step up and show the way.
On a daily basis, Donald Trump has shown us exactly what not to do. He’s made it all about himself, but he’s pointing his finger of blame everyone else. He’s lying and confusing, which adds to people’s anxiety. And he is both over-stating his authority and denying responsibility at the same time.
In contrast to this, there are world leaders – amongst them our Jacinda Ardern – who has been showing genuine leadership skills.
In a recent Forbes article, she was included in a group of women leaders who are shining with their management of Covid-19. According to Forbes, there are 4 characteristics that shape great leadership in a crisis:
- Tell the truth – don’t avoid the problem with denial, or anger, or disingenuousness.
- Be decisive – address what needs to be done quickly and be clear what is happening.
- Use technology – be as accurate as you can be with data and tools to connect people.
- Show your love – people want to know that their leader cares about them and understands that a crisis might be tough to deal with.
Throughout history, great leaders have proved great communicators; delivering the right words, at the right time, in the right way.
According to Shakespeare, Henry V placed himself shoulder to shoulder empathetically with his band of brothers on St Crispin’s Day before the battle of Agincourt. As the leader: motivator said: “All things are ready if our minds are so…..For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”
In 1963 Martin Luther King shared his dream and hope for America to see the glory beyond the darkness of racial prejudice. He employed several rhetorical techniques commonly used by Baptist preachers. He ‘merged voices’, linking with the words of religious predecessors to build credibility. He used a ‘prophetic voice’ to put into words what the audience was feeling. And he created a ‘dynamic spectacle’ with the drama of the occasion, the political unrest and the symbolic importance of the steps to the Lincoln Memorial.
Churchill’s masterpieces were written using a ‘Psalm form’. This allowed him to deliver his words with a lilting cadence full of rhythm and dramatic pauses to capture the attention of the audience. His carefully crafted words made use of strong emotions, metaphor and powerful imagery. This gave him an incredible authority with his speeches that filled Britons with confidence and resolve in their “darkest hour”.
In times of crisis great oratory has the power to soothe frayed nerves, to guide with direction and to inspire and embolden people to keep calm and carry on.