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Language Of Leadership

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- The Language of Leadership

Discussion, Examples, and Exercises

The material below is from Leadership Communication. The information is being used by Deborah Barrett in Session 1 at IE to support PowerPoint slides and to provide examples and exercises for class discussion.

Using the Pyramid Principle

In the Pyramid Principle, Barbara Minto illustrates how to structure an effective discussion in a business context by applying classical deductive and inductive logic. You begin with your main argument, and then, establish a dialogue that supports each part of the argument with specifics that answer the questions, "why," "what," or "how." This dialogue is similar to the approach you use to create a decision tree to generate ideas. You start with your conclusion or recommendation at the top and then work through the levels of support, testing each level to make sure it answers "why," "what," or "how" for the level above it (Exhibit 1 - 10).

Exhibit 1 - 10: Example of a Pyramid

Using the Pyramid Principle helps you structure a complete and logical argument. As you create the pyramid, you can easily see gaps in your evidence, establish the balance of your argument, and determine if each level logically supports the next. You can see if you have too much support for any one topic and not enough for another. A pyramid also makes it easy for you to see that each level of your argument clearly and logically supports the level above it and that you have not duplicated support under any of the topic boxes. In addition, drawing a pyramid helps if you are working with a team to create a document or presentation. With all topics and supporting details visually displayed, you can easily divide up the topics into tasks, avoid duplication of effort, and determine quickly where the team needs to do more analysis.

Creating a Storyboard

Another technique for working out the structure of your communication is a storyboard. A storyboard is particularly useful if you are working in a team to prepare a presentation. It allows all of you to see the logical flow and encourages you to think about the individual slides you need to support each section. It also helps you to divide these pieces up for completion by the individual team members (Exhibit 1 - 11).

Exhibit 1-11: Example of a Storyboard for a Presentation

Ensuring a tight, logical organization for any communication requires developing a plan or map of the argument, whether a pyramid, an outline, a decision tree, or a storyboard. You want to establish a logical structure and think carefully about the organizational devices that work best with your audience.

Instructions for IE students on Exercise 1.1:

1. In your groups, draw a pyramid using the facts listed in the exercise below. Establish an assertion at the first level in answer to the following question: Should AmeriHotels build a new, upscale hotel in Metroburg, near a new major downtown convention center and sports arena?

2. Write out your overarching argument and two to three major supporting groupings of facts with the numbered facts listed.

3. Be prepared to show the class your pyramid and discuss your strategy and rationale for the logic of the structure and facts selected.

Exercise 1.1: Using the Pyramid to Organize an Argument

1. No other hotels exist within walking distance of Metroburg's new convention center or the sports arena.

2. Experts predict a downturn in hotel bookings for at least the near term (1-3 years) and possibly for a longer term.

3. No restaurants exist outside of the convention center or sports arena, and the restaurants that do exist within the convention center offer "fast food" fare only.

4. Members of several ethnic groups and other local residents, many of whom had residences displaced by the convention center and sports arena developments, may oppose building permits.

5. The new convention center is in a high-crime area.

6. There are three other four-star, upscale hotels in the vicinity (within short driving distance) of the new convention center.

7. The city of Metroburg has obtained funds for park and landscaping efforts in the area.

8. Studies indicate that businesses thrive in the areas surrounding large urban convention centers and sports complexes/arenas, particularly in the accommodations/dining sectors.

9. Some statistics indicate a high correlation between sports arenas in large urban areas and increased numbers of outside visitors who stay overnight.

10. The city of Metroburg has committed to increased police presence/patrol in the area.

11. AmeriHotels has a spotty record concerning minority hiring and relationships.

12. Last year, AmeriHotels adopted a new vision statement promising that the company would make diversity and community-based hiring a top priority.

13. AmeriHotels has experience building in inner-city locations.

14. There is land near the new convention center and sports arena available for purchase and development.

15. Property values in the Metroburg downtown area have skyrocketed in the last year.

The Pyramid exercise above was adapted from an exercise originally designed by June Ferrill, Rice University.

Note to IE students: Below are copies of (1) the Superior Foods case (Exercise 1.2), (2) the first draft and final version of a memo to demonstrate the importance of clarifying your purpose and understanding your audience, and (3) the e-mail sent by the Cerner CEO that we discussed or will discuss in class.

Superior Foods Case and Exercise

Exercise 1.2: Communicating Bad News

The Case: Superior Foods Corporation Faces a Challenge

On his



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