“A leader is a dealer in hope.”
How to Paint Your Masterpiece
People don’t venture down an unfamiliar path, unless they can visualize their desired destination . I emphasize those words, because most people make erroneous assumptions about others—inferences that are colored by their own points of view. For example, many are under the impression that selling people on the reasons why they should make a particular decision—like the importance of a healthy diet—will be effective in influencing a change in behavior. But research has repeatedly shown that rational arguments are not very effective, since people’s behavior is overwhelmed by their reasons—their beliefs and desires.
There are others who believe that people’s behavior can be motivated with negative narratives—smokers with tracheotomies, soda drinkers guzzling down globs of fat, etc. This misguided notion assumes that gaining understanding of an unwanted experience, albeit in an emotionally powerful way, is what creates belief and motivation. But no one desires what they don’t want, including imagery and information about it. As Henny Youngman reportedly quipped, “When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.”
We hunger for direction and inspiration. We want what’s important to us to get better—our bodies, work, home and relationships. We want to imagine ourselves transforming our lives, and the lives of others. We want to feel good about our evolving narratives. It’s why we read books, scan the Internet, and flip through magazines. We’re looking for the before and after stories. We want to feel the pull of possibility, of moving beyond our existing reality.
Konrad Adenauer observed, “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon.” To discover someone else’s motivation, and bring it to life in a provocative way, is surprisingly difficult. Yet despite the fact that it’s widely misunderstood, the essence of influencing others is simple.
People are drawn across the bridge of belief by their anticipation of a better experience and a better life. Effective leaders ignite people’s imaginations by painting vivid, compelling, and personally relevant pictures—ones that move them. As John Quincy Adams made clear, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”