The ‘Leader’s Fallacy’ May Prove Howard Dean’s Undoing.

Howard Dean may fail at achieving the goals he has set as chairman of the Democratic National Committee – i.e., turning red states into blue -- unless he deals with a powerful threat to his leadership, the Leader’s Fallacy.

By Brent Filson - 2005

Howard Dean’s tenure as chairman of the Democratic National Committee will be fleeting unless he avoids a common leadership trap  I call it, the “Leader’s Fallacy”. 

Leaders adhere to the Leader’s Fallacy when they believe their enthusiasm for a particular leadership challenge is automatically reciprocated by the people they lead.

However, in leadership, automatic reciprocity is an illusion. Just because you as a leader are motivated, doesn’t mean that the people are motivated too.  Howard Dean is a case in point.  Uttering the “Dean Screech” during the Democratic primary, he certainly was motivated.  But that display of motivation turned off a lot of people and caused his candidacy to fizzle. 

The Leader’s Fallacy looms large as Dean leads the DNC.  Sure, he’s motivated to extend the Democrats reach into the grassroots of our nation’s electorate and turn red states into blue.  But his motivation isn’t really the issue.  It’s a given.  After all, if he’s not motivated, he shouldn’t be leading the DNC. 

Here’s the real issue, and I wonder if Dean and his lieutenants at the DNC understand it: Can he transfer his motivation to large segments of American voters, especially turned-off Democrats and even some Republicans, so they become as motivated as he is about Democratic values?

There’s a simple, powerful antidote for the Leader’s Fallacy.  I’ve been teaching it to leaders of all ranks and functions worldwide.  It’s the Leadership Talk.  Many leaders fall into the clutches of the Leader’s Fallacy when they give speeches and presentations.  Speeches and presentations simply communicate information.  There’s another, far more effective means of leadership communication.  That’s the Leadership Talk.  Unlike speeches and presentations, the Leadership Talk helps the leader forge deep, human, emotional connections with audiences. Establishing such connections with grassroots voters is absolutely necessary for the Democrats’ success.  

To give a Leadership Talk, leaders must first answer “yes” to three simple questions: “Do you know what the audience needs?”  “Can you transfer your deep believe to others so they believe as strongly as you do about the challenges you face?” And, “Can you have that audience take ardent action that gets results?”  If a leader says “no” to any one of those questions, he/she can’t give a Leadership Talk. 

If Dean and the Democrats want to reverse the Republican tide and reach voters’ hearts and minds in America’s heartland, they must trash their speeches and presentations and start giving Leadership Talks.  They must have the Leadership Talk be a cornerstone of the DNC communication strategy.  They must get thousands of Democratic cause leaders out in the hinterland constantly giving Leadership Talks. Otherwise, they’ll be victims of the Leader’s Fallacy -- confused about how come they personally are so pumped up, so motivated on one hand and yet are failing so miserably on the other.


2005© The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. – Celebrating 25 years of helping leaders of top companies worldwide achieve outstanding results every day. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get his FREE report "7 Steps To Leadership Mastery"