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How You Communicate R-E-S-P-E-C-T as a Leader. Lessons from Aretha.

by | Aug 21, 2018

“No one could drop a fur like Aretha Franklin,” comments Washington Post’s Robin Givhan.

From performing for the Pope to Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama this Grammy legend sang, strutted, and shared from her soul.

As a leader in your organization, you might be asking, “What can you learn about communication skills from Aretha?!”

Click on this youtube of Aretha at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.


You will see three ‘Aretha-isms’ that you can use every day as you communicate to your teams/colleagues/clients.

Here is how you command R-E-S-P-E-C-T:

Aretha-ism “Speak For Yourself®” Tip #1: Be emotive.

Logic tells, but emotion sells… and Aretha made us feel. While YOU don’t have to be emotional when you communicate, you do need to touch our emotions. How? Through story. Every major company from Nike to Walmart has a “story” to share. Action steps for you: Use more stories to make your messages stick.

Aretha-ism “Speak For Yourself®” Tip #2: Be natural.

Aretha Franklin was simply herself. If I could sing, I’d belt out, “Style is being yourself, on purpose!” It doesn’t have the same ring as Carole King’s famous song about being a natural woman, but I share this principle with all of my clients. You have to be “you”. AND you can employ some best communication practices to be “you” and do this “on purpose”. Action steps for you: great eye contact, strong posture, clear messaging.

Aretha-ism “Speak For Yourself®” Tip #3: Have presence.

Watch how she commands the stage. She walks in and takes over. Apply this idea when you run a meeting or give a presentation. No – you don’t have to sing or make a grand entrance. Yes – you do need to start with strength. Action steps for you: begin on time. Gain our attention in a dynamic way. Have a strong voice.

Washington Post’s Robin Givhan continues, “When she sang ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ at the Kennedy Center, she strode on stage in her cocoa-colored lace evening gown and full-length fur coat, clutching a sparkling handbag. … As she reached the song’s crescendo, she stood, took off her coat and let is slide to the floor in a glamorous reveal.”

Coat drop. Mic drop.

© Karen Cortell Reisman, M.S., author of 3 books and President of Speak For Yourself®, works with decision makers on how to speak with gravitas. It’s all in how you speak for yourself. Karen also speaks about her cousin, Albert Einstein, in a message about hope, resilience and brassieres.

Read more at www.SpeakForYourself.com/blog.


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