“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
This quote by Mahatma Gandhi has been shortened and changed over time to “Be the change you want to see in the world” or, more recently “Be the future you are trying to create”. While Gandhi’s original sentiment may have been a bit different than these later renditions, they are still powerful challenges, when taken seriously. As leaders, we are best advised to leave the world of platitudes and throwaway phrases behind. In the Leader’s Voice®, we challenge leaders to take their words and the way they convey them very seriously. Our way of saying, “Be the Change” is “Be the Message”.
Our definition for Leadership is “creating a future that does not yet exist” and one of our most powerful tools for creating the future, or creating change, to put it less dramatically, is our voice. Yet, we often reduce our voice to a transmission device. We focus on the content and then use our voice as a vehicle for “getting the message across”. Using our voice to “get the message across” is a bit like using a super computer to compute our basic times-tables. It does the job, but we are using only a small fraction of the computer itself and only a fraction of its potential. Here’s another example. Years ago, when we installed our first word processor (yes, they were separate machines the size of a desk with 10 inch floppy drives) our secretary would use the word processor to draft letters and then look at them on the screen and type them on her electronic typewriter.
Ideally, when speaking about a change, that change is aligned with our values, emotions, purpose and general sense of who we are and what we are about. How we speak can convey much more than the content of the message itself, if we allow ourselves to “embody” the content. When we do so, our message not only comes from the words and our voice, it is carried by our whole body. We in essence become the message. Our impact grows significantly when we communicate in an integrated and fully aligned manner. As listeners, we all know when we’ve experienced this, which brings us back to the author of our original quote. Gandhi was his message. A similar capability could be attributed to Nelsen Mandela and to Martin Luther King. While we might think these role models are beyond us, remember that each of these three giants was humble and modest, simply striving for what was right in an authentic way.