Leaders Communicate with Enthusiasm

In order to increase the frequency of our blog posts, we will be re-posting some older relevant and popular blog posts from the past 3 years. I modified this post from early 2010.  Still very relevant today; just ask the November 2012 Conference candidates how important it is to communicate with enthusiasm during an interview.

Several years ago Investor’s Business Daily interviewed John Wooden for the “Management” section of their newspaper. They reprinted the article after Wooden’s recent passing. You can read the full article at http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article.aspx?id=536929. What struck me most about the article was a quote from Coach Wooden in the last paragraph: “Regardless of whether you’re leading as a teacher, coach, parent or businessperson, you must have enthusiasm…Without it, you cannot be industrious to the full level of your ability. With it, you stimulate others to higher and higher levels of achievement.”

Through reading this, Coach Wooden provided me a better way to communicate to Junior Military Officer (JMO) candidates why it is so important to demonstrate enthusiasm during an interview. Leadership is about “stimulating” others or as Roger Cameron says, “Catalyzing actions in others.” In my opinion, from the feedback I receive from our client companies, the number one reason JMO candidates get ruled out of an interview is due to a lack of energy or the failure to communicate in an enthusiastic manner. I was guilty of this when I first interviewed to be a candidate in the Cameron-Brooks program in 1998 prior to my transition in 1999. I interviewed with Cameron-Brooks in San Antonio and during the interview I spoke in short abrupt sentences, rarely smiled and did not modulate my voice. Although I was excited to be in the interview and wanted to be accepted into the Cameron-Brooks program, I showed zero enthusiasm. After interviewing me for 25 minutes, the Cameron-Brooks Recruiter finally put his pen and paper down and said, “You have great credentials but you are low-key. It will hurt you in interviewing.” He should have added that it would also hurt me in my career as a business leader. Thankfully, Cameron-Brooks gave me that feedback.

I cannot honestly peg the root cause of JMOs having difficulty speaking with enthusiasm in an interview, or for that matter, having enthusiasm at all. Possibly, because not all military assignments, responsibilities or promotions require an enthusiastic communication style. One might be able to motivate others by other means in the military. Regardless of the cause, I would argue that one’s ability to communicate enthusiastically could put a “lid” on one’s potential. I borrow the phrase “lid” from John Maxwell’s book, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership where Law 1 is “Law of the Lid.” The reason enthusiastic communication can be a limiting factor and a rule in an interview is because a leader in business must be able to communicate with a variety of types of people from many different levels of an organization. Our client companies look for candidates who can easily communicate with customers, team members, company executives, suppliers, etc. The ability to communicate with this many different types of people may not be required in the initial position for which the candidate is interviewing, but our clients evaluate the Cameron-Brooks JMO candidate’s ability with a view to promoting at least two levels where this level of communication will be required. Hence, enthusiasm and communication become the “lid.”

Communicating enthusiastically is not the same as charisma. In fact, renowned business author Jim Collins points out in Chapter 2 “Level 5 Leadership” in the book Good to Great that charisma has nothing to do with cause and effect nor correlate with business success. I have read some interviews and watched old video of Coach Wooden. It’s obvious he had a lot of enthusiasm and passion for life, coaching, leading and success. He did not appear to me to be charismatic. He seemed genuine, disciplined, focused and energetic.

Start today by being conscious of your enthusiasm, and work to improve your verbal enthusiasm as well as the enthusiasm that your body language and facial expressions exhibit.

Joel Junker