This is plagiarism, of course. I am stealing 13th Century Saint, Francis of Assisi’s line: ‘Preach the Gospel all the time. When necessary use words’. Translation, do more, talk less. Lately recycled as ‘walk the talk’. Twisted by me as ‘talk the walk’. That is, you walk first, then you explain the walk.
Yes, I think the ‘walk the talk’ order is wrong. As leader, you walk, and walk; then, you bring people along and explain the walk, whilst walking, that is.
In our organizations, we have conceptual tsunamis of values and beliefs. Most of them dwell in the corporate graveyards of annual reports, reception halls and HR systems. These are words, not behaviours. People copy behaviours, not words on walls, not bullet points in PowerPoints.
We need to agree the non-negotiable behaviours of values and beliefs so that we can ‘do them’ and exhibit them, not just explain them. Those behavioural translations are life or death.
The ‘when necessary use words’ should be the motto of so called change management processes.
The pending role model/employee/peer-to-peer revolution, will be driven by deeds, not by words.
But let’s not forget. Words certainly engage and motivate. Words are the wake-up, the alarm bells, the declaration of intentions, the intellectual vehicle and the pre-emotional triggers of action. So we’d better be good at them as well.
Words are pre-social, the revolution is social.
‘The things you don’t have to say make you rich’ – William Stafford’s  (1914 – 1993)
Let’s get richer. We act more, then, when necessary we will use words.
For a selection of my Daily Thoughts on leadership, you can buy my latest book, Camino – Leadership Notes On The Road , available from all major online bookstores .
A collection of notes on leadership, initially written as Daily Thoughts. Camino, the Spanish for road, or way, reflects on leadership as a praxis that continuously evolves. Nobody is ever a leader. Becoming one is the real quest. But we never reach the destination. Our character is constantly shaped by places and journeys, encounters and experiences. The only real theory of leadership is travelling. The only footprints, our actions. The only test, what we leave behind.