While our style and competence are much more visible in our actions, our core is deeper, less observable, and less easily accessible. Style and competent actions play a pivotal role in our effectiveness; however, our core plays an even more impactful role in making us strong leaders. A strong core guides us toward extraordinary influence of others and an enduring legacy.
When our core is intact and congruent, others see us as authentic, humble, and trustworthy. When our core is compromised or conflicted, others experience us as arrogant, self-serving, and insecure. No matter how artful their style or competent their actions, every derailed leader I studied possessed a malfunctioning core—breached in some significant way.
Words of Life transform us, because they speak the language of the core. When we speak Words of Life to another, they reflect a special vocabulary giving us access to another's core. If we want to reach the core of a subordinate, one of our children, a student, or anyone else we seek to influence, we must give them Words of Life. By give, I mean give the other person a gift. Your words spoken authentically into their core will likely be the most important gift some people will ever receive. In my interviews with CEOs for this book, I was struck by how many reported what their boss said to them at critical junctures in their lives and how often their boss's words became an inflection point for good. Their bosses may not have known the phrase Words of Life, but nonetheless, they gave these future CEOs Words of Life at just the right time.
Words of Life contain the force to transform another person; they are significantly different from the words we might use to affirm another's style or competence. Words of Life truly bring out the best in another. Words of Life transform us and bring out the best in the important people we long to influence.
The act of affirming someone with Words of Life implants redemptive beliefsin a person's core, which, in turn, produces redemptive actions. By redemptive, I mean lifesaving, liberating, nurturing, and transformative.
Word of Life speak about our character—the unassailability of our inner person.
In most cases, leaders tend to affirm an action someone has taken. A far more powerful step is to affirm some dimension of a person's core which prompted the desired action. Effective style and great competence are tremendously important, but when qualitiesof character are affirmed, we are much more likely to draw out the best in the person we seek to influence.
Some leaders intuitively grasp this and use Words of Life. For others, it becomes a skill to master. In either case, Words of Life must authentically radiate from the core of the giver. One CEO I interviewed said, “The affirmation of another must come from inside you. It cannot be parroted. It must be authentic.”
When skillfully and authentically delivered, Words of Life leave the recipient momentarily speechless.
When a relationship of trust exists, another person allows us unique access to his or her core. The Words of Life we give them flow into their core and contain great potential to transform the recipient for good. The likelihood is high that a parent, a coach, a teacher, a boss, or some other important person has spoken Words of Life to us. Those words lifted us by creating beliefs that changed us. Over time, our actions reflected the beliefs that lodged in our core.
This is an extract from Tim Irwin's Extraordinary Influence published by John Wiley & Sons