By Gene Rose

“Great leaders cause you to move to action. They force you to think.”

That's how North Carolina State Representative Craig Horn, speaking at NCSL’s Symposium for Emerging Leaders in Beaverton, Ore. on Monday, captured the essence of Winston Churchill as someone who knew “public service was the highest calling.”

North Carolina Representative Craig HornRep. Horn, chairman of the Churchill Society of North Carolina and a past board member and treasurer of The Churchill Centre and the International Churchill Society, gave attendees Churchill’s “Simple, But Not Easy, Rules of Communication.”

For any presentation, Rep. Horn said, a legislator should:

  • Begin Strongly
  • Focus the Message
  • Paint a Picture in the Mind
  • Talk to Your Audience, Not at Them
  • End with Emotion

Churchill knew that with the right words, leaders have “more power than a great king,” Rep. Horn said. “The language of leadership is full of wit and wisdom. Our job is to give our constituents a reason to do something — to move them into action.”

The keys in presentation, Rep. Horn said, are to believe in what you are talking about and to express sincerity. The speech or presentation’s message should be easily understood, so that the audience can reduce to one good sentence.

Churchill was described as someone who mobilized the English language and set it into battle, Rep. Horn said. The statesman had to work hard to be a great communicator, overcoming a lisp and a doctor who recommended the young boy to avoid any line of work that required speaking.

He said there is no need to use big words. “Banish the bureaucratic and the banal.”

And, he said, choose active words, not passive ones.

The session, called “Winston Churchill’s Language of Leadership,” revealed much about the great leader, including his prolific writing—he wrote more than 50 books. He served in five conflicts, telling his listeners that, "There is no greater exhilarating feeling than to be shot at with no result.” Churchill also was the only person to be in a senior leadership position in both World Wars, Rep. Horn said.

Communications consultant Gene Rose is a former co-director of communications for NCSL.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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