By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to help you muzzle your critics more effectively. Reading time: 2:32.
Sometimes you feel like a lion tamer, the way your critics growl at you.
Every time you snap the whip they growl even louder.
There has to be a better way to muzzle your critics. There is.
Forget snapping your whip. Instead whip up a snappy story. Then connect that story to an analogy. That’s what the most effective leaders do to silence their critics.
Let’s take a leadership lesson from President Abraham Lincoln in how to tell your critics to go to hell –politely.
First the background: After three years of his presidency and in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln and his cabinet were under severe scrutiny. Critics screamed for changes in the administration and its policies.
Lincoln of course argued he needed more time to stay the course and finish the job without having so many distractions from his critics.
Lincoln tamed his critics with a value-laden story of a famous tightrope walker at the time: The Great Blondin, who had earned a worldwide reputation for crossing Niagara Falls perched on a 3-inch rope suspended 160 feet high over the turbulent waters.
Each of The Great Blondin’s nine crossings featured stunning showmanship midway on his 1,100 foot long tightrope walk– from pushing a wheelbarrow to carrying a man on his back to cooking an omelet on a portable stove.
Lincoln began his story very politely and reasonably:
“Gentlemen, supposed all the property you were worth was in gold and you had put it in the hands of Blondin to carry across the Niagara River on a rope.
“Would you shake the cable? Or keep shouting out to him? ‘Blondin, stand up a little straighter. Blondin, stoop a little more, go a little faster. Lean a little more to the north. Lean a little more to the south.’
“No, you would hold your breath as well as your tongue and keep your hands off until he was safely over. (The officials in) the government are carrying an immense weight. Untold treasures are in their hands. They are doing the very best they can. Don’t badger them. Keep silence and we’ll get you safely across.”
Lincoln’s critics only smiled at the imagined feat —and the very real feet—of The Great Blondin walking on his tightrope and into their lives. And Lincoln smiled the kind of smile that says to his critics “Now Get Lost.” Politely. After all Abraham Lincoln had work to do: preserving the United States of America. On a tightrope.
Tell value-laden stories to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
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