By Tim Hayes

On a sun-splashed June 12, 1987, the President of the United States stood at a microphone in front of the Brandenburg Gate in what was then known as West Berlin.  His words that day shook the world.


What few people realize is that Ronald Reagan’s prepared remarks that day only read, “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.”  The President wrote the next line on his own, the line that electrified the crowd and hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union and the eventual reunification of Germany some two and a half years later: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”


When you hear the force behind Reagan’s declaration, the emphatic emotion behind the first word of that phrase, “TEAR – down – this – wall!” there is no disputing the fact that he believed in what he was saying.  He absolutely meant it.  He infused into that single sentence a quarter-century of frustration, anger, and disgust for what the Soviets had caused to the people of East Germany by building the Berlin Wall.


The tone of voice that leaders use when they speak before audiences carries more weight than they sometimes realize.  An audience isn’t stupid.  People can tell whether a leader truly believes in what he or she is saying.  You can’t fake sincerity.  Those who try may succeed for a time, but eventually the charade gets exposed and you’re left with a shredded reputation.  It’s awfully tough to lead effectively once that’s happened.


As I work with client leaders to craft their messages and coach them on presenting those ideas with energy and passion, the first question I ask is, “If you were hearing this material for the first time, would you believe it and act on it?”  If the answer is no, then we keep working.


Believing in what you say must be the foundation of communication.  Anything less insults and shortchanges your audience, delays progress for your organization, and harms your ability to lead.  Carrying forward a message that rings true in your own mind and heart stands at the center of meaningful communication and at the base of every effective leader, whether in politics or business.

Copyright 2009 Tim Hayes Consulting