In two decades (that sounds old) of working with CEOs, business owners and other senior leaders, I cannot recall one who I would have deemed to be stupid (ok maybe 1). But seriously most were intelligent, talented people. Yet, when faced with the challenge of change, or a crisis, many succeeded and some failed. Those who failed usually lost their jobs or businesses.
When I listen to the ones that succeeded consistently, I listened to inspiring communicators.
To be inspiring, however, was not the same as being a great speaker. To be inspiring, you had to learn how to be a better listener, you had to fundamentally understand what was in the hearts and minds of the people in your audience, and you had to speak with passion and authenticity.
You could stumble and stutter over your words, but if people saw you speaking to the things you truly believed, and felt that you truly understood them and respected their views, you were far more likely to make the vital connection that would attract them to your vision.
HR leaders have recognized that leadership has changed. OUT has gone the command and control style of leadership, and IN has come a new, more empathetic, emotionally intelligent style of leadership where communication becomes one of the top two skills that you need to succeed. (The first is raw intellect and the ability to develop the right strategy.) The ability to understand, motivate and inspire others is the characteristic that is now second most important when recruiting senior leaders or anyone headed in that direction.
Great leadership ensures that the right conversations are taking place right across their businesses, for they understand it is those conversations that drive change and ensure progress. Leaders have to learn how to engage people in and through conversations. They have to learn how to tell stories better, and they have to learn how to be themselves, only better if they want to lead in our changing world.
The task of a leader is to inspire others to achieve great results. It sounds simple, but leaders today are operating in an incredibly demanding environment. The difference between competent communication and inspiring communication can be the difference between poor performance and outstanding results.
In speaking with leaders I admire the most, two words that I consistently hear are relationships and trust. You cannot lead if you cannot establish relationships of trust, both inside and outside your company.
- Address the concerns of the audience BEFORE delivering their own messages,
- Learn to listen better and master the most difficult communication skill of all,
- Develop strong points of view on key issues,
- Use more stories to capture hearts and imprint messages on memories,
- Are aware of the power of unintended signals and messages,
- Prepare properly when appearing on public platforms, and
- Keep reviewing and developing your communication skills.