Lessons in leadership: Roger Jones

1 March 2007 Bill Showalter

Is becoming an inspiring leader something you can learn? Yes definitely, says Roger Jones, an authority on leadership. Here he shares seven simple secrets that will enable you to be a more inspiring leader.


Remember the old saying, 'you don't get a second chance to form a first impression'? As clichéd as it may be, this saying is accurate. If your image is undistinguished or unfavourable, it will become your personal and defining signature.

Why is your first impression so powerful? Psychologists have shown that the initial critical seconds in which reputations are made or broken are due to the 'primacy effect'.

"If your image is undistinguished or unfavourable, it will become your personal and defining signature."

It states that when we are presented with a lot of information, we tend to remember the first component of it best. So when someone meets you, they will remember the first few seconds of the encounter and form their opinion of you based on this.

Those who polish up their primacy effect, and know how to use it, win the day. First impressions are key.

Action: think of qualities and behaviours that inspiring leaders exude, such as confidence and enthusiasm, and aim to project these when you first meet someone.


No matter where we are in a hierarchy, we subconsciously use non-verbal communication signals to project our sense of authority and status over those we perceive to be below us in the pecking order.

This is fine in principle, but inspiring leaders tend to be more comfortable with themselves and use these signals less than others. Here are three key signs:

Superman / superwoman stance: it's the hands on hips pose that's saying 'here I am – I'm the one'.

Last through the door and tap on the back: if there are two people going through a door, the more authoritative will typically hold back and go through last and tap the other person on the back (President Bush's favourite trick).

Upper handshake combined with double arm tap: when an authoritative person goes to shake a hand they will invariably ensure that they literally have the upper hand, then, to reconfirm their authority, they will tap the other person a couple of times on the upper arm.

Action: observe in your organisation how people use these non-verbal displays of power and use them in moderation yourself.


The average CEO tries to communicate his message using dry, dull logic. But when you hear an inspiring leader you will notice that they use the art of storytelling to get their message across. Developing your storytelling skills will set you apart from the crowd, allow you to captivate people and more easily persuade them to adopt your point of view.

"The best stories are about facing obstacles."

It is most effective to use personal stories. They could be from your private or business life; from a time when you suddenly saw something in a new light, met someone who gave you a valuable insight or you did something that you found particularly challenging. The best personal stories are about facing obstacles.

Action: develop a list of at least seven relevant personal stories of two to ten minutes to bring your communications to life.


People have a bias towards one of four ways they prefer to absorb information (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and digital). It is important to be aware of them and use each to click into the other person's preferred styles.

Visual: such people tend to use words with a visual connotation; for example, 'I see what you mean' and 'that looks good to me'. They will be convinced by your argument if it looks right to them. Use pictures and diagrams to engage them.

Auditory: these people favour words such as 'that sounds good to me' and 'I hear what you say'. They will be convinced by your argument if it sounds right to them. They like to discuss things more than others.

Kinaesthetic: this type likes words that include 'I have a sense for what you are saying' and 'in my experience'. They will be convinced by your argument if it feels right to them. Typically, they are looking for how they can use the information you are giving them.

Digital: these are process-orientated people. They use words based on logic, knowledge and statistics. They will be convinced by your argument if it is supported by facts, figures and expert opinion.

"Many business people simply use a set charisma pattern at the beginning of a meeting."

Action: determine the preferred bias of those you interact with.


Inspiring leaders, such as John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King, naturally sounded charismatic. However, politicians and many business people simply use a set charisma pattern at the beginning of a meeting or speech to engage everyone and sound inspiring.

To construct a charisma pattern, use only kinaesthetic words – those associated with feeling and touch – in the first two or three sentences of your introduction. Then, in the next two or three sentences, only use auditory words and for the following two or three sentences limit yourself to visual words.

Action: notice how inspiring public speakers use charisma patterns and the positive impact it has on their audience.


Dull leaders let themselves and their companies down by making glaring mistakes when they deliver keynote speeches. Here are a few of the more common mistakes leaders make. As you will see they can be easily avoided.

  • Using scripts: scripts are a big 'no' unless you want to appear like a 'talking memo'
  • Content overload: don't think that you will impress your audience by telling them everything you know in your speech
  • Zero interaction: the audience is far more likely to remember you and your messages if they participate
  • Using podiums: move from behind the podium and walk around to engage your audience

Action: notice the techniques of accomplished orators and integrate them into your talks.


Your voice is too often underused when you want to inspire others. The key components of the voice are speed, volume, tone, rhythm, pitch and timbre. Many people keep all these components constant, resulting in an extremely boring voice that will switch everybody off instantly.

"To become more engaging, add variety to your voice when speaking."

To become more engaging and inspiring, add more variety to your voice by emphasising key words, adding pauses, using a quieter voice to make points and changing your pace while you speak.

It is also a good idea to be perceptive to your voice inflections, as people often ask questions when they mean to make statements and make statements when they mean to deliver a command.

Action: record your voice and listen to it. Where does it fall on the dull to dynamic spectrum?

When you master the seven secrets of inspiring leaders you will find that your effectiveness and success increases. Inspiring others is essential if you are to build trust and commitment. And remember, trust and commitment are the foundation stones of a successful business and career.