Learning from the Persuasive Genius of Great Leaders

In my 20 years as an executive coach and advisor, I’ve found that “framing” is one of the common threads behind great leaders’ persuasive genius – both in formal presentations and one-on-one conversations.  Great leaders do not rely on facts alone to communicate. Instead, they offer new frames for what facts mean, in a way that creates “lightbulb moments” for others.

Simply put, a frame is a lens for interpreting events, a way of making sense of complex, messy experiences, so we can communicate and take action. According to The Power of Framing, by Gail Fairhurst, framing means “defining the situation here and now in ways that connect with others.” Frames provide a shorthand way to orient ourselves and tap into prior knowledge, without having to review every detail of a situation or plan. When a leader says, “we are all in the same boat,” she is helping people recall their interdependencies. Looking for a “win-win” in a negotiation activates more productive, collaborative behavior. And reminding a team “not to get too academic” can prompt them to move to a decision when needed.

Yet as powerful as frames are, they can also create a box around our thinking – narrowing our options, limiting our perspective, and ignoring critical aspects of the situation. Great leaders look for empowering, inclusive frames, that help people recognize and incorporate more of the current situation into their thinking.

In this post on strategy + business, Learning from the Persuasive Genius of Great Leaders,  I outline how great leaders I have observed use frames consciously and deliberately to empower and focus their teams.

See what you think!

All the best,

Elizabeth Doty