“What you tell, but not by what you say”

The title of the third module of the Avicenna Leadership Course is “Playing with Energy”. After the first two modules on the sources of leadership and self-reflection, we now have tools to better present ourselves on the basis of our qualities. Once again, we were given the opportunity to go into depth with our group of twelve via five speakers or trainers/coaches.

Elizabeth Ebbink, voice trainer, showed us two videos of Margaret Thatcher, one from the beginning of her career, and one later during a debate in parliament. Full of admiration, Ebbink indicated how Thatcher was (becoming) firm, unprecedented in those days, and how clearly she spoke, with intonation and speech as a gift to the listeners. We practiced with our own vocal range, the use of pauses, and to be/stand relaxed while speaking. Some of the other sessions in this module were related to this. Both the one on the last day by Ilona Eichhorn and the one by Rik Koster, in which we practiced a short pitch and looked back at the recordings of ourselves. What a fine approach Koster had, in which he especially gave back which qualities everyone already possessed, and how you can be even more conscious of that, how you can “liberate” your talents. It is clear – as a red line – that the message you get across is not so much the text, but more what you show: your feelings always come across. During a lecture, we pay much more attention to the characteristics of the speaker than to the content.

In our conference centre in Baarn (Drakenburg), it was nice to stay – the next day, the water lilies had hatched.

It does help, however, if the content you tell is captivating. People listen for short periods of time and are bad at summarising. Eichhorn took us through Obama’s Iowa Caucus Victory Speech. And had us practice his rhetoric: using the three-strike; applying contrast; using the unfilled (the riddle); a one-liner and naming the moment.

When we came here we were all searching

We were tense for what was to come

We were alone

And now at the end of the course

We have found our answers

We feel relaxed with each other

We are no longer lonely

The average participant would leave it at that

Not this group

We stay connected, we make the difference, and we move forward

Our exercise in Rhetoric

Presenting not as a trick, but by speaking from the inside out. Shariff Korver also spoke about this. Naturally, as a well-known film director, he dwelt at length on the concept of subtext: that what you tell, but not by what you say (similar to what we learned in our lessons from Johan Verstraeten in the first module in Leuven). We practiced far too short, with a scene and noticed how important it is indeed not to say it, but “to do” or sometimes “not to do” and to leave things out. Whereby you choose what is good for the end result, not what is good for you personally. It was nice to hear him say that as a (film) director, you can’t do anything yourself, you have to know just enough about everything, and then let it come together.

Rozemarijn Dols walked us through our role models, with the idea that what you project is also present in yourself (a Jungian exercise). We watched a scene from “De Prooi” and how it was clear that Rijkman Groenink showed little willingness to self-reflect, and did not master the adage “a good leader must also be able to follow”. We also tried to examine our own shadow side. And to realize that if you reject everything, you also reject the good. Embrace also the bears on your way. They are there for a reason, don’t push them away.

The example that Dols showed us at the end, from the film Invictus, made us think. “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul”.

Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

      I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

      Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

      How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

      I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

Of course, there was more to these three days, apart from the beautiful weather, that I could recall. But I will not. After all, it has to remain interesting for the average reader. However, I would like to share the five lines I wrote down to take with me in the coming period:

I would like to:

  • make sure I keep tapping into my creative and innovative side, because it gives me a lot of pleasure and energy;
  • give the collective of employees the right responsibility and support, so that they can join me in making sure “the right thing gets done”;
  • giving everyone, including myself, enough time to “wander”, and thereby gain surprising insights;
  • ask myself whether what I want (whether in my private life or at work) might be closer to me than I sometimes think. Try to embrace what you have or where you are;
  • see the talents in someone else, and, as with myself, realize that you motivate people most by liberating those talents.

Wilma van Wezenbeek
22 June 2022
Blog module 1 | Blog module 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.