A leadership lesson from Ronald Reagan I’ve taken to heart

While I can’t shake that my foremost memory of Ronald Reagan was the Iran-Contra affair—one of my earliest political memories—lately some words of his have given me great leadership direction. I believe they explain a lot of why most attempts to promote sustainability haven’t worked.

His quote:

If you’re explaining, you’re losing.

As I’m writing my book on sustainability leadership, this quote is guiding me. Any time I find myself explaining something—the science, how systems work, etc—I have to work through that section until I find a story, parable, or other way to illustrate or communicate besides explaining.

The other day someone asked me about fusion. I started my answer, “the story for fusion begins with vertical farms.” I continued sharing my story about how I view fusion. I find myself answer with stories and parables more all the time.

Likewise, I cringe when I hear scientists or anyone explaining. I just hear them losing now. Needless to say, I base all my understanding of the environment in science, but knowing and following the science doesn’t mean leading with it works or that I have to try to lead with it. I consider the science necessary but not sufficient to influence people’s behavior toward sustainability.

Reagan summarized it well. Seeing Daniel Day-Lewis’s Abraham Lincoln influenced me with its representation of his storytelling leadership technique too.

If you’re explaining, you’re losing.

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