When I was studying for my Masters Degree, the Chair of the English Department at Syracuse University embedded this thought into our minds: language elevates the level of literature, in ways both mundane and profound.
I've never encountered an instance of this where it did not correlate positvely, regardless of the genre, platform or purpose. I look forward to the third season of my newest television favorite, "Madmen", for many reasons, among them the acting and plot development, but especially the dialogue. Each character strikes me as having such a strong voice because the show is so well-written. Strong voice equals a strong, rich personal brand. And what carries this forward? The desire to influence at the intersection of words and personal identity.
What does this have to do with CEO resumes and career management? Well, just about everything. If you asked me to respond emotionally to an executive's resume that was loaded with data as opposed to one that was driven more by prose, I'll take the prose every time. So should corporate boards of directors as they respond to true or tepid CEO talent in the hiring process. It would be difficult to truly understand what and how a CEO thinks if there is scant copy on a resume or career portfolio that incorporates an interesting, unique mix of words to express the brand value. How could anyone determine, in fact, how an executive would act in an economic crisis, company downturn, growing profitability or technology challenge if there is only the dullest of language to reflect mindset or thought process?
In today's Week in Review section of The New York Times, Mark Leibovich writes a wonderful column on political buzzwords of 2008, concluding that "elections have consequences" ... and "lots of buzzwords." In a sidebar piece with buzzworthy contributions by lexicographer Grant Barrett, we come to one of my favorites, and I'm sure your buzz-favorite as well: Change. I'll give you some consolation on this one because you, Mr. or Ms. CEO, are in excellent company for making the "change" word the most overused word in your resume. I know Obama is soon to become our president, and he correctly identified the 2008 election as a change one. But, come on, you know there are abundant stories of your change management, descriptions of having been a change agent and a change catalyst. If you agree that too much "change" language will confer a sleepiness so deep on the resume reader that he or she will thank you for not having to resort to prescription drugs, then you're on the right track.
In another interesting piece in today's paper, Obama's choice of a poet to appear at his innauguration makes the strongest case possible for the use of inspired language in your career marketing documents. Elizabeth Alexander is quoted as saying that "President-elect Obama is extremely efficient with language" ... "it is tremendously righ and tremendously precise but also never excessive. I really admire that. That's a poet's sensibility. I'm going to follow his lead."
Now, CEOs, please follow this lead for the most appealing language of leadership. Express your personal brand with language that's polished and distinctly your voice.