The Ability To Describe One’s Vision To Other Men
Articulation is the second of the four F3 Leadership Skills (VAPE).
An Articulated Purpose is a Visualized end-state that is substantively distinct from the Status Quo. Its accomplishment requires certain actions that, cumulatively, form a Movement along a pathway of Outcomes toward the end-state.
The more radically unique the Vision is the more Movement it will take to see it through—which will require the participation of other people. The Q Influences others to work cooperatively toward the accomplishment of his Vision by igniting a palpable desire for action in their hearts. But first, before they will take a single step, he must tell them where they are going by Articulating his Vision in a way that can be easily understood and remembered.
Most Men Do Not Articulate
Articulation is a skill that distinct from Visualization. Unlike Visualization, Articulation is not something that every man can and does do. Regardless of how compelling they are, very few Visions make it outside of the heads of the people who have them. This is not due to people being incapable of explaining their ideas. Every man with a functioning tongue in his head has the capability of Articulating. It is not can thing, it is a won’t thing. The great majority of people don’t Articulate what they have Visualized because they simply choose not to do so.
We don’t mean to imply that men who choose not to Articulate do so out of selfish or feckless reasons. In fact, we think most men would rather share their beliefs, but are obstructed from doing so by two self-defeating perceptions that:
1. They aren’t not good at it, and
2. Nobody wants to hear their ideas.
You might expect us to say now that these Articulation-obstructions are mythical and throw out some Oprah Bomb like “yes little Snowflake you are good at it” or “there are no stupid ideas”. But that would be unhelpful because there is quite a bit of truth in both obstructions. Most men are not very good at Articulation (when they first start out) and people (at least initially) are resistant to new ideas. But while these obstructions do exist, they can both be overcome by any man determined enough to do so.
The Skill of Articulation
A basic premise of F3 is that as we are a self-led Organization Of Leaders. We do not bring in and pay personal trainers to lead our Workouts. We are so adamant about this principle that it forms one of the five Core Principles that guide our Organization. Putting this principle into practice means that every man who joins F3 ultimately finds himself leading a Workout for the first time, an event we affectionately refer to as his Virgin-Q.
Because he has never done it before, a man’s Virgin-Q is usually a dumpster-fire. He may be embarrassed by his performance, but the men he is leading (who have already put their Virgin-Qs behind them) are certainly not. They have walked in those crazy shoes and know how it feels. So they tell him the truth: “yeah, that was bad, but it gets nothing but better if you are willing to keep trying”. Every time you take the Q, every time you Lead, you improve incrementally. All that is required is the willingness to press on and keep trying. The only door to permanent failure is the one that says “I Quit” on it.
In Freed To Lead we called this process of improvement-through-failure The Museum Of Failure because that is what the man who trained me called my own dumpster-fire of a Virgin-Q in the Army. He knew it was bad. I knew it was bad. Every man present knew it was bad. So that captain of mine was only being honest when he said “if we had a Museum Of Failure that performance would have its own wing.” Then he made me do it again, and again, and again until I had attained mediocrity. At which point he said, “congratulations, you have achieved minimal competence. Now go get better on your own.” And I did. I got a lot better at doing it by doing it a lot. My Failure didn’t lead me to quit, it led me to grow.
The same principle applies to Articulation. Every man starts off with a dumpster-fire worthy of a special exhibit in the Museum Of Failure. If he stops trying, that is where he stays. If he keeps doing it, he gets better at it. Later, we will explain how Failure is an indispensable component of the F3 Leadership Development Process. For now, be assured that with Articulation, it is an absolute must.
Let’s take F3 as example of this premise. F3’s Articulated Purpose is the reinvigoration of male Community Leadership. Given the Status Quo of present day America, we recognize that this is a big and radically unique end-state. Male Community Leadership has never been at a lower ebb in our nation than it is right now. We intend to reinvigorate it through a Visualized series of Outcomes. Each new Workout we plant is one of those Outcomes.
When we first began Articulating the Purpose of F3 we were not very good at it. Actually, we were horrible. But we kept at it. At this point, we have probably explained it ten-thousand times and ten-thousand times more. This morning, as chance would have it, I explained it to two women, one of whom immediately demanded that I drag her husband to a Workout. I told her that I’d be happy to, and handed her my business card (I’m an attorney) with the F3 Logo and contact information printed on the back. If he calls me, I’ll Articulate it to him all over again. If he doesn’t call me, I might just track him down to do it. The only way I can fail is if I don’t try. And I’m way past that point.
A few years ago, we realized all this verbal Articulating wasn’t enough, so we started writing it all down. Ultimately, what we wrote became Freed To Lead. And, that apparently not being enough, we have written QSource in a further attempt to Articulate our Vision. Given where we have been, we are not expecting this to be enough either. There will probably be more Articulating to be done and (we hope and expect) we will continue to improve in our doing of it. Frankly, we think we have nowhere to go but up.
So, to every man who has Visualized an Outcome (and we believe that to be literally every man), but has failed to Articulate that Outcome to other men because he believes that he’s not good at it, we say this: go get good at it! Get your Virgin-Q behind you and then continue to improve by continually doing it.
There is really no other way, not for a man who wants to do what a Leader does.
The Receptive Ear
Let’s assume that we have partially convinced you. You’re willing to Articulate, but you still think nobody wants to hear what you have to say.
If you are a man who does not Articulate because you believe that your Organization or Community is not receptive to your Vision, than you are likely a Member of a Bullfrog (or worse, a Leech) rather than a Lizard. This leaves you three choices:
1. You can quit before you start
2. You can stay and fight, or
3. You can find a Lizard with a receptive ear.
The choice you make is up to you, but this is immutable: Leaders Articulate. If you don’t Articulate (regardless of the reason), you are not a Leader. And, consider this. With the exception of the Leech, most Organization are not so enervated that they cannot be revived by a few Leaders who conspire and contrive to do so. Here we hint to to a central theme of the QSource: to Inspire men not to give up on their Organizations and Communities that have Institutionalized themselves into a comfortably unsustainable Status Quo. If you love the place and it can be saved, stay and fight. Push through.
That is what Leaders do.