Friday, July 15, 2011

Law No. 5 - The Law of E. F. Hutton - John C. Maxwell's The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Law No. 5 - The Law of E. F. Hutton - 'When the real leader speaks, people listen' (John C. Maxwell)

John C. Maxwell names this leadership principle after a brokerage firm called E. F. Hutton & Co. that was founded in 1904 and became a well known, well respected financial firm in the United States. In the 70s and 80s they ran an advertising campaign that used the catchcry, 'When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.' Maxwell alters the catchcry and says, 'When the real leader speaks, people listen'.

I've seen this leadership principle at work in many situations. You're sitting around the board room, and little Johnny presents his idea to the leadership team. A few people offer some quick, insightful comments. The introverts sit back and ponder the possible changes. Some small talk ensues, until eventually someone who everyone respects and admires offers their opinion. The small talk ceases, and people find themselves listening intently to what this leader has to say. It seems true, that when the real leader speaks in a given circumstance, people listen.

I recall a time when Salvation Army leaders, employees and volunteers gathered together to talk about the future work of The Salvation Army. About 80 people were present at the open forum, and people were periodically standing up, offering a comment, question or a passionate political statement. Chatter occurred following many questions and different people offered their answers. I remember the moment. The chattering was soft and consistent, after someone had offered a comment that was particularly controversial. A retired General of The Salvation Army stood to make a comment (Rtd. General Eva Burrows), and within seconds there was silence. I mean, absolute silence. She spoke with boldness and conviction, and offered her point of view. It dawned on me very quickly, the leadership principle we are discussing; that when the real leader speaks, people listen.

The fact is, people want to hear the opinions of people with influence. That is why we stay up late and watch the current affair's shows, with their interviews of leaders like politicians and CEO's. That's why we are glued to the television when a chat show is on with someone we admire. We wonder what their opinion will be; we wonder whether they will offer an insightful comment that is worth adding to our leadership bag.

As my wife and I, along with a handful of others sat to discuss John Maxwell's laws of leadership (back in 2001), we came to this law. The law of E. F. Hutton. It was interesting, because I was rattling off some leadership content, and no-one was paying close attention, until my wife spoke. She said something profound, and then we all thought about what had just happened. When the real leader spoke, the people listened! We just sat there laughing, as I felt a little kick in the guts, but was happy that we were all connecting with the leadership material.

We develop opportunities to be listened to, as a leader, in many different ways. Some of the ways we are further blessed with the ability to communicate to others is through:
* Our character - Being someone who has integrity, someone people trust, and someone with a strong sense of morality.
* Our experience - People gain respect for leaders who have 'been through' events, and have the experience to back up what they're saying. Think through leaders who share about a social justice project AFTER they have just been overseas to witness it first hand, and have also given a sum of money to support the cause.
* Our knowledge - When we have a deeper knowledge of the organisation/circumstances in which we are communicating, people tune in. They want to hear our opinions, because they trust that we know what we are talking about.

Our aim is to be a better leader and a better communicator. Why? Not because of reasons the world throw at us; for some self-aggrandizement, but because we wish to create change in the world, and communicate injustice and truth to the world around us.

"When the real leader speaks - people listen." Do you hear what I'm saying??

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