The Leadership Soul

by : Brent Filson

George Bush won the election because he was finally able to break out of the presidential bubble and give "leadership talks" on a consistent basis.

But to do it, he had to face the dark night of his leadership soul. And this is a lesson for ALL leaders.

The presidential bubble is that physical and psychological insulation that descends upon the president of the United States the moment he's sworn in.

Inside the bubble, people continually agree with him. Inside the bubble, he can give canned speeches in front of canned audiences – all to his heart's content -- and think he's doing a great job as a communicator. But the bubble ultimately is a blight, and it almost destroyed the Bush presidency mainly because it kept him from giving what I call leadership talks.

Presentations and speeches primarily communicate information, but leadership talks are a much more effective leadership communication tool. They establish a deep, human emotional connection with people.

It's taken me 20 years of working with thousands of leaders around the world to identify what leadership talks are and to show how they should be given. However, leadership talks have been around since the dawn of history. In all cultures and countries, whenever a people had to do great things, one thing had to take place, a leader had to gather those people together and speak from the heart.

That heartfelt speech to win the hearts of key segments of voters was what George Bush was lacking in the campaign, especially throughout the debates in which he was beaten badly by John Kerry.

After those debates, George Bush faced the dark night of his leadership soul. It happens to many leaders when they realize that in order to succeed they have to abandon what worked before for them and jump off a cliff and make their wings on the way down.

FDR faced it when he got polio and responded by seeking to continue in political life with wisdom and persistence and compassion. Winston Churchill faced it at Dunkirk. Harry Truman faced it in 1948 when it looked as if he would be defeated by Tom Dewey, and he made his now famous whistle stop campaigning that enabled him to come from behind and win. Ronald Reagan faced it when he decided that he would run for president at 68 years old.

George Bush faced it after the debates. He could have remained in the presidential bubble and given his canned speeches in front of canned audiences. But instead, he decided to go out there and be himself and lay it all on the line. During the last weeks of the campaign, he pretty much dispensed with the canned and just stood up there and spoke from the heart to voters in the battleground states. For the first time in the campaign, he was out of the bubble giving leadership talks. And it made all the difference in the world.

Leaders take note. When you face the dark night of your leadership soul and must take new action to get new results, break out of whatever bubble you might be in and start giving leadership talks.

2004 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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