Connecting Voice and Touch

As we begin a new year, I wanted to share a short, yet powerful story about one of the most important lessons of leadership. I hope you will often be mindful of its enduring and important message.

Author Max Depree opened his book Leadership Jazz, with the story of his granddaughter Zoe, born prematurely and weighing only one pound seven ounces. She was so small that Max’s wedding ring could slide up her arm to her shoulder. Her chances of surviving 3 days were less than 10%. And her tiny body was invaded by a number of tubes, in hopes of keeping her alive.

Since Zoe’s father had moved on, Grandpa Max was given his instructions by a wise neo-natal nurse. “For the next several months, you are to come to the hospital every day to visit Zoe, and when you come, I would like you to rub her body and her legs and arms with the tip of your finger. While you are caressing her, you should tell her over and over how much you love her, because she has to be able to connect your voice to your touch.”

Max went on to write, that without realizing it the nurse was giving him one of the best possible descriptions of the work of a leader. “At the core of becoming a leader is the need to always connect one’s voice and one’s touch.”

As a leader your voice is the expression of your beliefs, and your touch is your actions. You cannot become a leader without principles and actions.  You must be clear on what you stand for, and then always be acting in accordance with your stated principles.  This consistency between word and deed is no easy task, and it is also non-negotiable.

I guess in some ways effective leadership is touchy-feely. Your actions touch other people every day, and create some kind of feeling in them. Hopefully your touch spurs feelings of strength, connection, trust, validation and gratitude.

Remember that we follow leaders in large part based on how they make us feel. May your voice and touch continue to make others feel blessed and privileged that they are associated with you.

And in case you were wondering, DePree wrote a later book dedicated to Zoe – on her 6th birthday!

All the best in 2018! I hope it turns out to be a hugely rewarding, prosperous, and fulfilling year for you.


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