I have a dream . . . Sharing Visions

When Martin Luther King stood at the podium on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, he did not inspire a generation by declaring ‘I have a great strategic plan.’ He said, quite simply, ‘I have a dream.’ And like many of the great speeches, he was sharing a vision. He was seeking to attract his listeners to a dream of a united America, where all men and women were regarded equal, regardless of colour.

Great orators seek to draw the listener towards their way of thinking. They emphasise common ground by constant use of the words ‘us’ and ‘we’ – ‘we all believe’, ‘together we can’.

John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address from January 1961, for example, climaxes with the direct request that Americans . . .

‘Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.’

It includes calls for common ground . . .

‘Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us.’

There are disclosures . . .

‘I cannot see how the future will pan out . . .’

But the overriding purpose is to attract, through words, rhetorical devices, tone of voice and body language.

We are not saying you have to be like Martin Luther King or John F Kennedy to be good at sharing visions. These are simply some inspiring examples of people who were seeking to attract others towards their vision.



Martin Luther King

I have a dream, 1963

This masterpiece of rhetoric was delivered by King on 28 August 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, to a crowd of more than 250,000 civil rights supporters.

“But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.”

Martin Luther King, ‘I have a dream’, 1963

Notes: This masterpiece of rhetoric was delivered by King on August 28 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, to a crowd of more than 250,000 civil rights supporters.

Excerpt: “But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.”

Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator, 1940

Notes: In The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin plays Dictator Adenoid Hynkel, whose doppelganger, a poor Jewish barber living in the slums, is mistaken for Hynkel, and in this climactic moment, shares his vision of a world without masters.

Excerpt: “You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the world!”

Winston Churchill, ‘This was their finest hour’, 1940

Notes: The ‘finest hour’ speech, of which this is a later recording, was delivered by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons in June 1940. In May he had delivered the ‘Blood, toil, tears and sweat’ speech, his first to Parliament as Prime Minister. In early June he made the ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech, after reporting the evacuation from Dunkirk. Now he spoke to Parliament as France sought an armistice with Germany, and Britain faced the prospect of continuing alone.

Excerpt: “The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.”

Mahatma Ghandi, ‘Quit India’, 1942

Notes: In August 1942 Gandhi called for determined but passive resistance against British rule. Speaking at a park in central Mumbai, his ‘Quit India’ speech mobilised mass civil disobedience across the country.

Excerpt: “In the democracy which I have envisaged, a democracy established by non-violence, there will be equal freedom for all. Everybody will be his own master. It is to join a struggle for such democracy that I invite you today. Once you realize this you will forget the differences between the Hindus and Muslims, and think of yourselves as Indians only, engaged in the common struggle for independence.”

Greta Thunberg, ‘How dare you!’, 2019

Notes: Climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed assembled world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City.

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! You are failing us… But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”

President Kennedy, Inaugural Address, 1961

Notes: The election of 1960 was close. And so, when the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts had taken the presidential oath of office, he addressed the crowd, eager to gather universal support for his agenda.

Excerpt: “Now the trumpet summons us again – not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are – but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’ – a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself. Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?”

Emmeline Pankhurst, ‘Freedom or death’ speech, 1913

Notes: Emmeline Pankhurst was an activist and leader of the British suffragette movement. These come from a speech she delivered in Hartford, Connecticut, in November 1913.

“If you are dealing with an industrial revolution, if you get the men and women of one class rising up against the men and women of another class, you can locate the difficulty; if there is a great industrial strike, you know exactly where the violence is and how the warfare is going to be waged; but in our war against the government you can’t locate it. We wear no mark; we belong to every class; we permeate every class of the community from the highest to the lowest; and so you see in the woman’s civil war the dear men of my country are discovering it is absolutely impossible to deal with it: you cannot locate it, and you cannot stop it.”

“‘Put them in prison,’ they said, ‘that will stop it.’ But it didn’t stop it at all: instead of the women giving it up, more women did it, and more and more and more women did it until there were 300 women at a time . . .”

Severn Cullis-Suzuki, ‘Girl who silenced the world’, 1992

Notes: In 1992, Canadian environmental activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki, aged just 12, raised money with members of the Environmental Children’s Organization (which she founded, aged 9), to attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Together the group presented environmental issues from a youth perspective. The video later become the viral hit known as ‘The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes’.

Excerpt: “At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us to behave in the world. You teach us: not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others, to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures to share – not be greedy. Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do? Do not forget why you’re attending these conferences, who you’re doing this for – we are your own children. You are deciding what kind of world we will grow up in.”

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech, 2005

Notes: Apple CEO Steve Jobs made the commencement speech to graduating students at Stanford University in 2005, a year after he was first diagnosed with cancer.

Excerpt: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Barack Obama, Iowa Caucus, 2008

Notes: Barack Obama made this victory speech at a packed rally in downtown Des Moines, January 3, 2008.

Excerpt: “You’ll be able to look back in pride and say, this was the moment when it all began . . . This was the moment when we tore down barriers that had divided us for too long. When we rallied people of all parties and ages to a common cause. When we finally gave Americans who had never participated in politics a reason to stand up and to do so. This was the moment when we finally beat back the politics of fear, and doubt, and cynicism, the politics where we tear each other down, instead of lifting this country up. This was the moment. Years from now, you’ll look back, and you’ll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope.”

Christabel Pankhurst, ‘For forty years . . .’ 1908

Notes: This comes from a rare recorded speech, showing a rhetorical style that is measured, reasonable and deliberate.

“For forty years, this reasonable claim has been laid before Parliament in a quiet and patient manner. Meetings have been held and petitions signed in favour of votes for women but failure has been the result. The reason of this failure is that women have not been able to bring pressure to bear upon the government and government moves only in response to pressure. Men got the vote, not by persuading but by alarming the legislators. Similar vigorous measures must be adopted by women. The militant methods of the women today are clearly thought out and vigorously pursued. . .

“They must be compelled by a united and determined women’s movement to do justice in this measure . . . we have waited too long for political justice; we refuse to wait any longer. The present government is approaching the end of its career. Therefore, time presses if women are to vote before the next general election. We are resolved that 1909 must and shall be the political enfranchisement of British women.”

But it’s not all sharing visions. This selection of speeches and writings shows a complex weave – speakers attract, propose, reason and persuade, offer incentives and pressures, disclose and assert.

The Language of Influence

We all use combinations of influence styles to meet our objectives. But some situations will call for you to stay rooted in a specific style.

There are certain words and phrases associated with each influence behaviour, which can help trigger the kind of conversation you want to have. If you’re being assertive, you might start a conversation with words like ‘I want you to . . .‘ Whereas if you’re trying to pull a colleague towards your way of thinking, you’re more likely to start with ‘What I see us doing is . . .’

Language is only half the battle – your delivery, tone of voice and body language, will be key factors in whether you are successful. And our participants practise their influence skills through some exercises that focus on one style, and others that require more subtle combinations.

Here we have what might be called a standard peer-to-peer situation – an attempt to speed up reports. It shows how you might tackle the same problem in a variety of ways.


“I’d like to suggest that you prepare your team meeting reports so that they can be presented in ten minutes or less.”

“Your past reports have been accurate. In fact, concerns that you have raised have pointed directly to problems that needed to be fixed. However, the minutes of our team meetings indicate that your presentations consume more than 50 percent of available meeting time. In two of the last three meetings, we were unable to cover our entire agenda. As a result, the team was unable to settle on an implementation plan to handle your recommendations. You yourself have voiced this concern about vague action plans.”

“I believe that a short, highly focused report will drive the team to action on your recommendations and still allow us to cover our entire meeting agenda.”


“I really enjoy how thorough and well organised your presentations are in team meetings.”

“But you take up so much time that I lose momentum and feel under pressure to concentrate on other agenda items.”

“I need you to cut your report time in half.”

“If you’ll cut your actual report time, I’ll work hard to make sure the other team members give you their full attention at each meeting.”

“But if you can’t keep your presentations short, I’ll start interrupting with requests to you for quick summary statements.”


“Remember after the last team meeting, we spoke together about how the meeting went. If I remember our discussion, you were particularly distressed that the team had not agreed to an action plan on your recommendations. And I was concerned about not completing our agenda.”

“I suspect that you might see me as too concerned about time and process in team meetings. I’m really puzzled at how to keep our meetings short and to the point.”

“What are some things you might do with your own reports during the meeting that might help keep us all on track?”


“I know that we both share a concern that the team meetings are often unfocused and time pressured. The two of us always begin meetings with great enthusiasm for moving ahead, and we often emerge discouraged and confused. We’ve even talked together about how we want team meetings to be better.”

“You know, with your skill at structure and precision and my ability to facilitate the discussion, we could make a big difference. Imagine the entire team leaving the next review meeting feeling like we could move mountains. Every one of us knows exactly what to do next, and we’re really enthused about the plan. Every presentation has been on target. We’re so focused that we not only had time for all agenda points, but we even brainstormed some terrific innovative solutions. What do you see in that picture? Let’s put our heads together and talk about how we’ll make it happen.”

Influence is Everything

We’ve been developing a global network of exceptional influencers for the past 40 years, and we know that influence touches everything that people and organisations need in order to thrive and succeed.

Encouraging people to use their personal energy and resources to achieve their goals and develop great relationships creates a motivated, autonomous, agile workforce. One that has the tools to aim high, manage change, and hold onto values in the face of a complex, challenging world. Invest in influence skills and you create a powerful culture of connectivity and realised potential.

We think influence is everything. What does it mean to you?


Much of the time people make things happen purely as a result of their position in an organisation. This is positional power.

Great leaders have personal power, which is seen, felt, and experienced in the way they influence others. Personal power can be developed and grown and, unlike positional power, it has unlimited potential.

In combination, the positive use of both positional and personal power makes leaders inspirational.


Partnerships are about the long haul, and that requires a foundation of equality in which each partner is valued.

Over-reliance on our positional power – our status, our expertise, our resources – creates inequality.

Developing the tools to be influential through our internal energy and resources, our personal power, creates inclusive partnerships in which everyone has a voice.


A truly agile organisation does more than just react to meet the needs of a changing environment.

Organisations that empower people to influence move quickly, make fast, good decisions, overcome silo-thinking, and break down barriers.

With influence, an organisation will thrive on turbulence, becoming stronger as it navigates its challenges.


Organisational culture is defined by the way people behave.

To change that culture people must be empowered to change their behaviour.

Our programmes create profound and lasting behavioural change in people, teams, and organisations.

We challenge existing patterns of behaviour and help people find new ways of working together.

Nothing changes unless behaviour changes.


Teams take root when a shared vision is articulated with clarity and passion.

In a successful team people embrace their differences and celebrate their common ground.

Teamwork is nurtured by rich communication, intentional behaviour, high expectations, and courage.


People who can call on the full range of influence styles and behaviours are able to thrive in the face of complex challenges and situations that are outside their experience.

They respond actively and creatively whilst remaining true to their core values and purpose.

They are resilient.


The ability to innovate, and to bring innovation to reality, is a crucial quality of modern enterprise.

Innovation is more than generating ideas, however brilliant they may be.

Your idea realises its true potential when you influence those around you; you attract others to your vision, you build enthusiasm and energy, you mobilise people, and you gather resource.

Influence turns an idea into an innovation.


When traditional measures of productivity indicate a fall in output, it is the processes of the business that are first reviewed.

But process needs people and, so often, productivity is throttled by failure to communicate, lack of cooperation, and poor decision-making.

Effective influence removes these bottlenecks.


The future is always uncertain.

Change happens and, often, it is how we anticipate and react to that change that drives behaviour.

That adaptability must be anchored to a clear vision of where you want to be.

Influence draws others towards a shared vision of the future.

Focused energy and collective endeavour makes that future more likely.