Leadership and rational language

Giuseppe Ando
min read
Leadership and rational language

For a leader, language, understood as verbal communication, is a fundamental tool, not only as a vehicle for contents, but also as a process of conceptual expansion of the very contents it transmits.

I mean that a speech never produces only the simple effect of transferring what one wants to say from one's own mind to another, but rather, at the very moment in which the argument is conceived and conveyed, a creative process begins that produces a lot more than what we initially wanted to communicate. Do you remember Goethe's Faust? In that work, Faust proposes to modify the beginning of the Gospel of John, passing from "In the beginning was the word" to "In the beginning was the Action".

Because? Because the word is not a banal semantic phoneme, it is a creative action, it reifies reality, it does not limit itself to describing it. Therefore, the dialectical ability in a leader cannot be measured exclusively in the measure in which he emotionally motivates his collaborators to action, but on how much he transforms the comparison into conscious creative action. The dialectic is to be understood as the art of discussing asking and giving reasons for what is said. The “creative” function of language moves on two fronts (neither opposing nor opposing), the emotional and the rational language one, but in an organized and finalized context like the company, the logical-creative function of language must never be neglected.

It is known to all that human thought and action, in everyday life, often appear to be characterized by an unstructured processing of information and, therefore, not subject to precise rules. Too many factors play: from environmental to emotional and idiosyncratic ones, from systematic errors to false and irrational beliefs, from gratuitous inferences to obscure self-deception mechanisms, in short, we are constant prey to an irrational universe, which, however, it becomes clear and transparent when we reduce it to its recurring rational components.

Let's take a sunset, we can linguistically describe it in two different ways. The wonderful poet Emily Dickinson in her poem "Sunset" describes the sunset as follows: A sloop of amber slips away / Upon an ether sea, / And wrecks in peace a purple tar, / The son of ecstasy. (An Amber Lifeboat slips away / On an Ethereal Sea, / And a Purple Sailor is shipwrecked in Peace, / The Son of Ecstasy); while this is the scientific definition of sunset by Steven Ackerman professor of meteorology at the University of Wisconsin: “The colors of the sunset are the result of a phenomenon called dispersion.

Molecules and small particles in the atmosphere change the direction of the light rays, causing them to scatter. Diffusion affects the color of the light coming from the sky, but the details are determined by the wavelength of the light and the size of the particle ”. Emily Dickinson's sunset is irrational, subjective, it is the creative product of something that is inspired by the sunset, but which does not describe it rationally and, therefore, does not reify it as a knowable object. Professor Ackerman's sunset is “cold”, material, physical, colorless, but it reifies an objective and rational image. In both cases, what takes shape transcends mere code and comes to life as emotion or as scientific information.

A world without Emily Dickinson's poetry would have been much poorer and colder, but if her communication were decontextualized and used in the improper context of scientific communication, the concept of sunset would be totally distorted and misleading. Here is the key: language is the transmission and reception code appropriate to the situations and places (real and virtual) for which it was conceived. Therefore, a leader must elaborate a rational language and be deeply attentive to what contents he reifies in his communication. Respect for one's collaborators does not only involve recognizing their emotional dimension, but also, and above all, their intelligence and their capacity for rational interaction.

A leader wins consensus around the rational motivations that he elaborates with an appropriate choice of logical arguments. I know that many think that motivation comes first through emotional involvement and then through conviction. I do not deny that this is true in many cases, I just say that it is a limit. Indeed, I say that there is even a streak of immorality. Psychological dynamics are unavoidable, but in appropriate contexts it is the duty of every leader to open up to a dialectical confrontation based on the logic of the arguments, rather than to wise emotional stratagems.

About the author

As Executive Coach Giuseppe is a collaborative partner at Board and Senior Management level, able to inspire leaders and their teams to identify the appropriate tools and knowledge to be productive and effective. Giuseppe is solution-focused and results-oriented, his coaching is focused on improving business performance and operational effectiveness and enhancing top management performance.

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