On August 29, 2007, the Financial Times published a 700-word review by Stefan Stern of The Secret Language of Leadership. Here are some of the highlights:
“If business leaders do not immediately grasp the vital insights offered by this book, both they and their organisations are doomed. But the good news is that there are examples of executives out there who have taken this book’s messages to heart, and have acted successfully on them…
“This new book represents a considerable advance on the earlier work. The squirrels have been superseded by an intelligent and sustained analysis of the art of contemporary leadership. Those bosses who quietly despair of ever getting their people to change should spend a bit of time learning how to speak Denning’s ‘secret language.’
“One leader who does seem to have got the message is former US vice-president Al Gore. In a superb opening section, Denning takes Gore’s lousy presidential bid of 2000 apart, showing how at each stage the man of destiny from Tennessee blew his chances…
“Denning is a subtle and astute reader of audiences’ minds. Don’t try to out-reason deeply sceptical employees, he says. You have to make a personal – and emotional – connection with them first. Indeed, facts may be the last thing people want to hear right now. They will simply be discounted and rejected.
“Of course, there is still a need for reasoned arguments, he says, but it is crucial to get the “sequencing” of messages right. Get people’s attention, “stimulate the desire for change”, and then wheel out the rationale.
“’Leadership communications begin as monologue,’ Denning says. ‘If they are successful they turn into dialogue and then conversation. The conversation emerges because of the enduring enthusiasm for change that has been inspired.’
“Some business leaders may be sceptical about the need for language skills these days, but this “secret language of leadership” will reward further study.”