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President of the Myers Institute for Communications and Leadership, Dr. Jeff Myers speaks to more than 50,000 people each year in corporations, schools, parent groups, and youth organizations. He’s the author of six books, including Understanding the Times and Secrets of Great Communicators. Dr. Myers and his wife have four children and live in Tennessee

CBD: You are a professor of communication arts, head of your own leadership-training ministry, and the author of several books and DVD curriculums, including From Playpen to Podium and Secrets of Everyday Leaders. What sparked your passionate interest in communication and leadership?

JM: As a young Christian, I was shocked that so many Christians seemed defeated. It was as if they didn’t really believe God was powerful enough to bring the personal and societal transformation they so desperately desired.

Scripture tells us that we should avoid being taken captive by deceptive philosophies, confidently stand for truth and righteousness, apply biblical wisdom to every aspect of our lives—including our vocations—and graciously become a blessing to all nations of the earth. I think God calls us to action because He actually wants us to move into action! That’s why helping people break down the barriers is such a passion for me.

The other passion I have is to equip adults to personally pass the baton of faithfulness to the next generation, starting with their own children and then through an expanding sphere of influence to their neighborhoods, churches, and businesses. Passing the baton is the one thing we “cannot not” do—we may pass it well or poorly, but we will pass it. This is why I developed video courses instead of just books. I didn’t want people to just read; I wanted them to teach. I wanted to provide tools that would make it simple for people to pass truth on to others.

CBD: What is your definition of leadership? In your opinion, what are the three most important characteristics successful leaders possess?

JM: I define leadership as influence and change. If you can influence others and create change, then you are a potential leader and should cultivate the skills of leadership. It’s hard to make a list of what actually makes a person a leader, but in my study of leadership, every effective leader I found possessed these three traits:

Vision—the ability to see the world as God sees it. So many people are deceived into being “me-centered” today. Godly leaders figure out early that it’s not about them and their needs, and they seek to obey God and inspire others to do so.

Courage—the willingness to act in spite of fear. All godly leaders I know experience fear—sometimes outright terror. But they press on, knowing that God is bigger than anything they will face.

Integrity—honor for God and other people. “Honor” is a character quality worth recovering in our day. I honor my authorities by acting respectfully, and I honor my followers by entrusting them with a vision that gives them a sense of significance.

One of my most cherished beliefs is in the “everyday leader.” The world changes when everyday people exercise their influence. This is why American armies are so hard to defeat—when a leader falls, a soldier rises up and becomes a leader. Can you imagine the difference we could make if we and our children could cultivate everyday leadership ability?

CBD: How are reading and writing proficiency connected to oral communication skills?

JM: Studies of reading and writing show that when children develop better oral communication skills, their writing and reading improve drastically. Oral communication is foundational in God’s design. When someone becomes comfortable with the spoken word, the written word resonates more in the soul.

Children’s reading, writing, and oral communication skills improve when they have something interesting to read about, write about, and talk about. I encourage parents to use their kids’ interests as a platform for developing these skills. Speaking for myself, I started to enjoy reading and writing when I developed a passion for a particular subject. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but, if I weren’t a speaker, I probably wouldn’t read and write much. I have to have an outlet for communicating what I discover.

CBD: Delivering a speech in front of a roomful of strangers can be a terrifying experience, especially for shy children. What can parents do to put their kids’ fears to rest and help them become confident communicators?

JM: Public speaking certainly can be terrifying. When people list their fears, “public speaking” is listed more often than death! Fortunately, we can learn a lot from the great communicators about how to overcome fear.

From Winston Churchill, I learned that if you have a passion for your message, fear begins to melt away. I encourage my students to only speak on topics they are passionate about. Passion cannot be manufactured—it has to come from the heart. Cultivate the passion first and then work on how to communicate it.

From Ronald Reagan, I learned that there is no such thing as a “crowd.” An audience is a group of individual humans. Imagine that you are conversing rather than speaking, and it seems more natural to you and to the audience. People mocked Reagan because he was a radio announcer and actor, but I believe these vocations gave him an excellent training for public office. Many politicians shout and berate others, which makes them look like lunatics. Reagan never did that. He spoke calmly, with good humor, and made you feel as if you were the only one in the audience. I show videos of his speeches to my students and encourage them to develop that spirit of genuineness.

From Mother Teresa, I learned that people will believe me to the degree that my life proves my message. Mother Teresa got a standing ovation each time she spoke in the United States in spite of her halting, broken English. When speakers act graciously, make sensible points, and give people a way to respond, they will be believed. And as Bert Decker says, you’ve got to be believed to be heard.

From Patrick Henry, I learned that if I have a sense of mission, I can speak boldly to any audience. I teach my students to imagine that they are on a mission to convey vital information desperately needed by the audience. This tends to turn their attention away from their anxieties and toward the audience’s needs.


 

 More Books by Jeff Myers

Secrets of Everyday Leaders: Create Positive Change and Inspire Extraordinary Results, Teaching Kit
Secrets of Everyday Leaders: Create Positive Change and Inspire Extraordinary Results, Teaching Kit
Jeff Myers


 

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