Executive Leaders Need To Repeat Themselves

By all accounts, Harvard University’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, is an exemplary leader. 

Today, Harvard’s student population is more diverse than ever because she changed the financial-aid program. She believed that the university should comprise the most talented students, regardless of their financial circumstances. A student’s finances are no longer a barrier to entry. 

Dr. Faust has achieved a lot in her seven years as president. Yet when asked what she’s been most surprised to learn in running Harvard, she cited the challenge of communicating messages across a large organization. Here’s what she shared in a recent interview with Fast Company: 

“You have to say the messages again and again and again.   

As a history scholar, if I publish something, I don’t ever say it again.  

If I gave a speech that said the same thing as one of my published articles, everyone would shake their heads and say, “Well, she’s done with. She doesn’t have anything new to say.” 

But a leader needs to have a message that can be identified, understood and incorporated by the constituency you’re trying to lead. So you have to keep saying the same things over and over again.”  

She’s right, of course. The research shows that people have to hear the same message up to seven times in order to retain it in their busy and crowded brains. 

As an executive leader, you need them not only to remember what you’ve said; you need them to act upon it to help realize your leadership goals and objectives. 

And they won’t act if they can’t remember what you’ve said. 

So be sure your messages are clear, understandable and compelling. And then repeat them at every opportunity. 

It will go a long way in ensuring that you gain the alignment you need behind your leadership initiatives.