Learning From a Different Place – Part 10
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

Law number 10 of John Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is The Law of Connection. The subtitle for this chapter reads, “Leaders Touch a Heart Before They Ask for a Hand.” We all know what it feels like when there is a connection between two people. It’s very personal, and the connection will differ with each person, but the feeling is the same. My understanding of this law has greatly expanded over the last decade. My early understanding was that this law was only something lived out with people face-to-face and one-on-one. Now I have realized it is so much more. We can connect with large groups of people at the same time.

President Ronald Regan was known as The Great Communicator. True, he was an actor who continually honed and refined his craft, but there was something much deeper in the way he communicated. President Regan connected with people. He made you feel like he was an old friend who knew you personally. Peggy Noonan, Regan’s speech writer, commented that when the president returned after a long trip, the staff would stop what they were doing when his helicopter landed on the lawn. Another staff member, Donna Elliot, would say, “Daddy’s home!” The staff had missed him and were so glad to see him. Regan had connected with them individually. But what about those of us who weren’t in the White House? How could he connect with us?

During his time as the host of General Electric’s Sunday Night Movie on NBC, Regan visited each and every GE plant in the United States. He would spend time with employees in the break rooms and ask them about their lives. What were their hopes, dreams, and beliefs? Regan was learning about the nation and the little things that made people tick. By the time he was drafted to run for Governor of California, he was able to connect with large audiences because he already knew them. They weren’t strangers but old friends he hadn’t seen in a while. The rest, as they say, is history, and Regan rode that skill into two presidential terms.

As leaders, we need to slow down, walk slowly through the crowd, and learn about people. Their hopes, their dreams, and their beliefs. The “little” things become the connecting points we can use to live out the Law of Connection. John Maxwell gives us eight steps that Regan used masterfully:

  1. Connect with Yourself
  2. Communicate with Openness and Sincerity
  3. Know Your Audience
  4. Live Your Message
  5. Go to Where They Are
  6. Focus on Them, Not Yourself
  7. Believe in Them
  8. Offer Direction and Hope

If you are old enough to remember, try identifying how many of these Regan used. If you are too young to remember, search for some of his speeches or conferences on YouTube.

Connecting with larger groups is essential for a leader. When was the last time you took the time to connect before you started communicating?

Next week we’ll explore The Law of the Inner Circle.