The poem, “Totally Like Whatever, You Know?” by Taylor Mali, has become the soundtrack to my son’s eighth grade school year. He’s reciting this piece for forensics, and, I’m sure, for of all his friends.

He appreciates the humor. But I hope he gets the message:

— That your words must reflect your mind.

— That your voice must support your words.

— That your words must give voice to your soul.

Cultivating a presence that reinforces your conviction is a leadership concept that professionals certainly understand.

But might this be too little too late? How many young people are opting-out on their personal credibility because it has “somehow become uncool to sound like you know what you’re talking about?”

While I’m watching this unfold at a middle school level, my colleague Jill Weisensel says what Mali calls “disarticulation … ness” hobbles young people at every level.

“Part of being a credible leader is saying what you mean, meaning what you say … and consistently acting in line with your values,” said Weisensel, a primary developer of the Marquette University TAKES ACTION Bystander Intervention training program.

In the words of Taylor Mali:

“I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.”

It’s not enough to have values. You must act on them, too. That’s the message an eighth grader should learn for life.

Kathy Mangold
Verbal Defense & Influence