By Tim Storey

Friday the 13th was a lucky day for the large group of legislative leaders attending NCSL’s special workshop in Tucson, Ariz., for top leaders.

The three-day conference ended on a high note with a presentation from consultant and debate coach Curt Stedron about the art of persuasion. Citing the latest research in neurology, Stedron dispelled the notion that legislators can win supporters using logic and overwhelming data. He stressed that people are far more likely to come to your viewpoint if you appeal to their emotional side using stories, anecdotes and analogies. His slides are available here on NCSL’s website as well as several other presentations that were delivered at the conference.

Tucson blog
Nevada Assistant Senate Floor Leader and NCSL President Elect, Debbie Smith introduced Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, who lives in her district.

Legislative leaders from around the country also heard from former Southwest airlines CEO Howard Putnam about what it takes to be a great leader. Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report did an excellent job of previewing next year’s elections, sharing that the outcome is very much up in the air and that no wave appears to be building for either party. Beth Bovino, chief U.S. economist for Standard & Poor’s, told the group she expects continued growth in the economy next year. That was welcome news for leaders who have been struggling for several years with budget shortfalls.

The closing session was probably the high point, with three former legislative leaders talking about “Things they don’t teach you in leadership school.” Or as former Iowa Speaker of the House Christopher Rants put it, “What do you do when the excrement hits the oscillator?” Rants was joined by former Indiana Speaker John Gregg and former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton. Jetton shared his compelling story, as a cautionary tale, about how he went from being one of the most powerful leaders in the state to having to resign in disgrace. He warned leaders to be careful about letting the job change their fundamental values. It’s a story that he also shared with the Southwest Missourian a couple of years ago, including a top 10 list of advice for new legislators.

NCSL does several special conferences a year exclusively for legislative leaders. If you would like to learn more about these meetings, contact NCSL’s director for leaders services, Tim Storey at

Tim Storey directs leadership services and legislator training for NCSL.

Posted in: Legislators, NCSL
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |

Subscribe to the NCSL Blog

Click on the RSS feed at left to add the NCSL Blog to your favorite RSS reader. 

Blog Archives | By Category

About the NCSL Blog

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.


Share this: 
We are the nation's most respected bipartisan organization providing states support, ideas, connections and a strong voice on Capitol Hill.

NCSL Member Toolbox


7700 East First Place
Denver, CO 80230
Tel: 303-364-7700 | Fax: 303-364-7800


444 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 515
Washington, D.C. 20001
Tel: 202-624-5400 | Fax: 202-737-1069

Copyright 2015 by National Conference of State Legislatures