You can’t talk about leadership without communication, the two are inseparable. If leadership is influence, as John Maxwell likes to say, then communication is the action behind the influence. It’s true you can lead by example at times, but without clear communication, you might only be leading yourself. The better the communication the better the leadership. Great communicators don’t always make great leaders but great leaders need to be great communicators.
Leadership communication is something that can be over-analyzed. There are research articles on leadership communication styles, situational communication, and behavioral communication. However, if you read these articles you’ll see that there are really 5 keys to great leadership communication that are important to all leaders.
Communicate With Clarity
In a Harvard Business Review study, they discovered that the most successful CEOs were ones that had one key behavior, decisiveness. One reason being decisive produces great results is that it provides clarity. Most of your team will follow wherever you lead them as long as you tell them where you are going. Clarity in communication is important whether it’s one on one or from a platform.
If you look at the last election, we had two candidates leading their respective groups in two distinct categories. Both candidates lacked integrity maybe moreso than any other candidate and both were extremely clear about what they wanted to do. If you look at the presidential elections from years ago, it’s the ones with the clearest message that won. Clarity also makes the message portable, which we’ll see below.
Communicate With Authenticity
There is one requirement to be my friend, be authentic. I highly value transparency and authenticity in communication. Being authentic doesn’t mean you can’t be polished or even use a script for your talks. In fact, I’d argue that you need a script if you’re giving a speech or communicating from a platform. Authenticity is about your honesty and delivery of information. However, it also isn’t permission to be rude. Whether you’re communicating as a leader or as a friend, being authentic means telling the truth and being vulnerable. Humility is a key characteristic of a great leader and being authentic is what often reveals this. This vulnerability builds trust and is the fundamental element of an effective team.
Communicate Value By Listening
Leaders don’t stand in the front of the line with a blow horn. Yes, sometimes a leader’s job is to lead the charge. However, if you want the heart of the people you have to listen to them. Active listening is an effective leadership strategy because like, authenticity, reveals humility, and values others. Sometimes the best leadership communication is actively listening to your team. They can often give you valuable feedback.
There is a saying that you communicate the vision until your tired of it and communicate it even more. Great speech advice often goes like this, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” To the person doing the communicating, it can feel repetitive or even boring. However, to the hearer, a communicated message that is repeated reminds them where they are heading. It provides clarity. Vision leaks. Humans can be easily distracted and great leadership communication needs to be repeated over and over again.
If It’s Actionable, Make It Portable
When I trained my team in sales I had a saying, “the point of every interaction is the next interaction.” When a salesperson makes a phone call and talks to a prospect, the goal is to set an appointment for a sales presentation and ultimately close a sale. However, what I found was that when we focused on sales presentation appointments our overall conversion rates went down. What changed it for us was focusing on the next action. In other words, our sales team job wasn’t to set a sales appointment, but rather to set the next conversation with each prospect. This encouraged the sales team to stay in touch with customers and produced less customer fatigue (from the sales pitches).
If you want your leadership communication to be remembered and you want your team to take action, make it portable. This is why the best mission statements are short and memorable. To make something memorable and portable you have two choices; tell a compelling story that illustrates the point or tell the “why” behind what. If you aren’t a great storyteller or don’t have the time to invest in telling a story, then you must reveal your “why.”
Every piece of leadership communication has a purpose behind it. By communicating the purpose you make it more clear, more authentic and more portable. These 5 Keys To Great Leadership Communication are important to leaders at all levels of the organization. Whether you’re leading your family, your team or your company, being clear and authentic, listening, taking the time to overcommunicate and being concise are all important.