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Leaders Never Attack People – Just Ideas…

July 22, 2013

Ronald ReaganIn 1964, then political aspirant and prior Democrat Ronald Reagan delivered his famous “A Time for Choosing” speech in which summarized what he believed to be the primary difference between the two political parties: big government vs. big opportunity. Fast-forward to 1984 – Ronald Reagan accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for a second term as President of the United States. His acceptance speech was brilliant – here’s a bit of it:

“The choices this year are not just between two different personalities, or between two political parties. They are between two different visions of the future. Two fundamentally different ways of governing – their government of pessimism, fear and limits… or ours of hope, confidence and growth.”

Certainly sounds like a positive and enduring vision – with the clarity that has the power to enlist people behind that vision. He continued, “Isn’t our choice really not one of left or right, but of up or down?

Please note that Reagan was extremely adept at phrasing language so that it did not vilify a person – instead, it was always “wrong ideas” that injured the nation and its people. He understood that if you verbally attack another person because you simply don’t believe the same things, you back that person into a corner. And you know what happens when you do that – the person feels the need to defend and “bark back”. That approach adds to the degree of polarization and alienation that we often see in today’s society.

Why not try, as Reagan did, to point out why you think that your ideas would be beneficial and talk about their effects? Use positive language, not negative. This approach, practiced by great leaders everywhere, has a unifying and inclusive effect. The goal is understanding rather than oppression – therein lies the beauty of this leadership technique.

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