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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Dissent in America:

  1. Dissent in America is patriotic when it springs from a true love of country and expresses a sincere desire to make it better. In fact, this kind of dissent was basic to America’s founding.
  2. But dissent becomes dangerous and often un-American when it is cruel, produces social division, disregards its potential to incite violence, and appeals to deep feelings of hate.

Intent is what separated the president’s approach to rallying his base from the four dissenting freshmen legislators. One approach was hateful and divisive, and the other was distinctly American. One reflected a country that was made for immigrants, and the other chose to ignore it.

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The vice president stood next to inhumane conditions for children and families seeking asylum in the U.S. and said that Americans would be proud of what he saw. He was talking directly to followers, and the cruelty of his statement had to be intentional.

The fact that cruelty is used as a rallying point for political followers is a tragic example of what has happened to the use of language in our digital media world. Media has become tools for dividing and conquering… not unifying and inspiring.

And the fact that all this is tolerated by so many in the name of competitive politics is an additional tragic example of what has happened to a nation founded on the fundamental principles of liberty, justice, and human rights.

Only enlightened leadership can fly above all this and put unity and humanity back in our discourse… and our lives. But right now it’s not yet clear from where, or even if, that leadership will appear.

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My previous blog post pointed out that news media are really businesses. I follow-up here by suggesting that the entire topic should be dealt with in newspapers and on television as important public interest news.

Stories about big changes in major media organizations, the inside workings of biased news organizations, profiles of extreme talk show hosts and writers, sources of domestic fake-news, social media as weapons, foreign government generated fake-news, and much more, are all sources of potential audience-grabbing news stories.

Some news organizations already have media reporters. Brian Stelter at CNN is one of the few with high visibility. His program on Sunday mornings reports inside news about organizations, people and places, and also deals with the hot issues of the week.

Beyond reporting news media news stories, it is also in their self-interest for news organizations to invest heavily in media education. For them, promoting media literacy should simply be seen as essential immediate and long-term audience development.

 

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Communication is impossible in an environment of lies and confusion. Problem-solving processes simply shut down.

Even when our president begins with a smidgen of truth, he grossly exaggerates it, and then embellishes it with fictitious additions until it all becomes a sea of lies and mass confusion.

Whether it’s about what’s going on in Iran, the treatment of children on the Mexican border, the actual status of his wall, the true impact of Chinese tariffs, his love for North Korea’s dictator, his strange behavior with Putin, his attraction to the Saudi crown prince, his comfort in the company of any dictator, his disrespect for U.S. allies, his total rejection of climate change science, or all of the promises he hasn’t kept… whatever he says is intended to dominate the headlines, but it also produces widespread fear and unrest.

This is not about political ideology. It’s about how communication works… and as a result, his need to make it “all about him” has also made us vulnerable to social upheaval everywhere.       

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There is no such thing as a communication expert… only professionals like me who chose to spend an entire career struggling every day to make it work. One proven communication truth, however, is that people hear what they want to hear.

Some pundits thought both evenings were disasters for the Democrats because there was so much challenging and so little unity. Socialism charges were now easier to make. But others thought that aggressive challenging was a good thing because in “mass” debates like these each person must find a way to stand out. Unity will come later in the process.

So here’s my take. I actually dreaded these debates. I was convinced that we would learn nothing and only add to information overload and confusion. I shrugged them off as “debating games.”

But I must confess I did see some talented, informed, and articulate people. And it was easy to see who was informed about what… healthcare, or tax reform, or climate change, or the military, or foreign policy, or racism, etc.

I can now imagine how time on the road might produce some strong candidates for president, vice president, and cabinet slots… and all without regard to age. I can also see how message guardrails against charges of socialism can easily be built.

When all is said and done, I came away from these debates encouraged that we actually might have the talent and political strength in this country to oppose autocracy, and to bring back American values-based leadership to the world. Please don’t tell me I’m fooling myself.

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Fifty years of trying to make communication work teaches that you can’t have genuine communication without having credibility. And being credible equates with being believable.

While it might be possible to lead for a limited period of time by generating chaos and uncertainty, experience clearly teaches that it is impossible to lead any cause, institution, or government for a sustained period of time without being both credible and believable.

So what establishes leader credibility? Here are some of the essential factors:

Credible leaders are not perfect, but are generally seen as honest, reliable, and extremely well informed…

They also ask for and use expert advice… collaborate every day with competent team associates… behave in a manner that earns respect in all settings… have clear goals that benefit most all constituents… and communicate clearly and concisely.

In the final analysis, history honors the leaders who endure as both credible and believable. The others are quickly exposed for who they really were…

 

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If you think an autocracy is not right for America, here are some strategies and tactics that could be used when carrying out “congressional oversight:”

  1. The Mueller Report provides enough material to support both a “foreign government collusion” and an “obstruction of justice” investigation. So hold a series of “public reviews” under a simple theme like, “Congressional Oversight Review.”
  2. Make an annotated list of those already indicted and/or headed to prison, those who are still under investigation in the southern district of New York or elsewhere, and those in cabinet positions with ethics violations pending. Tell each of these stories in some detail during the oversight reviews.
  3. Identify the key findings that the Mueller report intended for congressional review. Select committee members and other available witnesses to give reports on each finding during the reviews.
  4. Now design a comprehensive strategic communication plan to roll out review conclusions, a few at a time. Include big ads in key states and other markets, and social media messages strategically targeted to selected voter groups.
  5. During these roll-outs, the presidential candidates must keep their campaigns focused on their programs for improving job and career opportunities, access to quality healthcare, access to quality education, training programs for an automation-changed workforce, etc.
  6. Most importantly, candidates must stress their biggest and best idea for the future… the one that differentiates them from the rest. In this age of imagery, they must also come off personally as the one voters simply admire and trust the most.

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