The Language of Leadership

One of the paramount leadership qualities of Hubert. H. Humphrey was his ability to foster long and lasting friendships. “The greatest gift of life is friendship, “ he said “and I have received it.”

As curator of the Humphrey Program at the Walter Cronkite School for nearly a decade , I have been blessed to develop deep friendships with some 91 fellows from 56 countries. They have learned to walk the walk  and talk the talk of leadership in new and exciting ways.

During this decade I have been in awe at the seeming ease to which Humphrey Fellows speak articulately about serious global issues in their non-native language.  They converse as scholars and experts in important fields.  Asking insightful questions,  they listen to learn.  They follow the Steven Covey’s 5th principle of leadership to first seek to understand, then to be understood. Truly they have been blessed with the gift of tongues.  Many of them speak multiple languages. 

Watching their lives change, both professionally and personally, after spending 10 months in America is inspiring.  Obstacles were overcome.  New ideas were confronted. They learned first-hand the true meaning of the favorite quote by American documentary film make Ken Burns who said, “We are all looking for ideas large enough to be affair of again.”   The fellows turned fear into faith.  And they put that faith into every footstep they took in American from the desert of Arizona to the marble halls of Washington.

Listening and watching Humphrey Fellows  speak and learn and then share new knowledge in their adopted English language has taught me many principles about what I call the  language of leadership. It isn’t just a “new tongue”  but a way of life that they have chosen to follow after their Humphrey year. Here are just three principles articulated by key words to explain what I mean by the language of leadership they fellows are teaching me.

Clear Communication is the beginning of understanding.

Service to others before self can enrich one’s happiness in life.

Inspiring hope in times of anger or angst allows loving kindness to heal individual heartache as well as global despair.

Communication, service and hope are just three of the many important words in the language of leadership.  I have seen fellows not just from the Cronkite cohort but others during the Global Leadership forum or alumni events speak these same true terms from the way they live their lives.  The lives of great leaders like Hubert H. Humphrey are not just memories but stand as living legacies,  monuments to the power of the individual to create change for good.   

My association with the Humphrey Fellowship program allows me to learn the language of leadership from the  lives of so many fellows following in Humphrey’s footsteps. 

I look forward during this 40th anniversary celebration in Zagreb to meeting a wider circle of Humphrey alumni.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *