Breakthrough Thinking Practice 4: Speak your declarations publicly.

Leadership Blog

Isabel Elvery

Written by Isabel Elvery

Breakthrough Thinking Practice 4: Speak your declarations publicly.


Much in the same way a labourer cannot construct a building using only a hammer, leaders need a range of different practices in their toolkit in order to achieve breakthrough results.

This can sometimes mean shattering the shackles that tie us to our own human nature and shedding the behaviours that are hindering our journey towards breakthroughs. In this blog series we will unpack 9 leadership mindset and behaviour practices for you to consider adopting if you want to set yourself on hyper-speed course to achieving extraordinary, breakthrough, results.

So far in this blog series we've discussed the three breakthrough practices: 1 – “Unhooking yourself from your assessments” , 2 -  “Listening for what’s missing" and 3 - "Identifying what you are really committed to". In our next practice - practice four - we are going to explore the power and importance of declaring your commitments publicly. And when you've finished reading this, we have a superb episode from our podcast series Ambition. Unleashed. that explores making the mental leap from predicting the future to declaring the future in more detail.



A culture of declaration: how to unlock breakthrough leadership in your managers


One of the most effective ways to unleash the leadership potential in your organisation is to establish a culture of making declarations. 


Without this culture, middle managers will work within their existing context, fixing problems to help an organisation keep going. But their true potential as leaders is to shape and change their current context entirely – even if this is at a small level.


“Will” vs “might”


So what is a declaration? Put simply, it is a commitment made public.


Often people operate out of private commitments that they haven’t told anyone about. But a commitment that’s unspoken doesn’t have potency. You could even say it doesn’t live in the real world because it doesn’t shape reality outside of ourselves.


For our leadership and management teams to be effective, we need to speak our commitments into existence by making declarations. And these need to be declarations that something will happen, not that something might hopefully happen at some point down the line.


When we make a declaration, there’s a difference in how people listen. Stating something will happen changes people’s perception of what is possible.


If a CEO declares that their organisation will be zero-carbon within the next 18 months, their words have an immediate impact. The same goes for a middle-manager who declares that everyone in their team will feel like they have a voice in decision making. 


Some would hesitate to make such a bold commitment, others would be afraid to say it until they had a comprehensive plan in place. But it’s the leaders who make declarations - before all their ducks are lined in a row – who create space for breakthrough results. 


A word of caution


Are words alone really that powerful? Well, there are three caveats. First, leaders need to have the appropriate power to make a declaration. If someone is promising world peace by next Thursday, it’s just a pipedream. There are too many moving parts which they have no influence over.


Second, in order to make the declaration, leaders need to be committed to what they’re saying. People have a fine-tuned ability to sniff out inauthenticity, so if we’re making a declaration, we need to make sure we’re genuinely committed to achieving it, and believe in it ourselves.


Third, leaders need to understand the implications of what they’re committing to. If a freshly appointed leader declares their company’s speed of production is going to double but they don’t yet have proper understanding of their own operations, their words could undermine them, not empower them.


Noticing what’s missing


If inauthentic declarations are so ineffective, why make declarations at all? Why not just act? 


To begin with, declarations are a powerful action in of themselves as they shape our reality, despite the adage that actions speak louder than words. But more importantly, declarations open the gate to a different kind of action – the kind that wasn’t possible before. 


If a senior leader declares that by 2023 their organisation will have zero carbon emissions, people in the company will start to scan their environment in new ways. They will notice what’s missing and what’s needed to drastically cut emissions. Before the declaration was made, these issues might have gone unnoticed, but now they’re front of mind – and everyone can begin to address the gap between today’s reality and the new reality created by the declaration.


Very few people will get on board with a strategic plan without context. But if a leader makes the declaration that within three years the people in their team are going to have a significant global impact, people are going to get inspired, and they’re far more likely to get on board with the strategy that follows.


Revoking commitments publicly


The flipside to making commitments is revoking them. This is much more rarely seen, as leaders can think it makes them look weak if they are backtracking on a declaration they’ve made.


But revoking commitments is just as important as declaring them. One of the worst things a leader can do is give people declaration fatigue, where a leader keeps saying they’re going to achieve things but doesn’t follow through. In the worst-case scenario, people will lose faith in that leader’s ability to lead. If the leader publicly revokes a commitment, their team will know where they stand, trust will build, and they will be more willing to sign up to the leader’s next declaration.


Making declarations puts reputations at stake, as you are committing to something that people will hold you to publicly. It will take bravery for the leaders in your organisation to stick their necks out. But if you set an example in your own declarations, and if you reward the courage of managers even when they fail, together you’ll smash through the ceiling of what’s possible in your organisation.


Listen to Ambition. Unleashed. the podcast now where we explore this further.


Looking to create an impossible future? Get in touch to explore how we can help you ignite your ambitions.



Published 19/05/2022

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