Do you have to be good at communicating to be a successful leader? The simple answer is yes you do. When asked about the importance of communication in leadership here is what a few past leaders had to say:
Gilbert Amelio, a pioneer in the U.S. technology industry and former President and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp. said, “Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership.”
Author and former presidential speech writer James Humes answered the question succinctly when he said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”
And Lee Iacocca, former Chrysler CEO said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”
So you are a leader or you want to be a leader someday but you have trouble communicating. Can a person who has trouble communicating be a leader? Again the simple answer is yes you can.
Listed below are the four areas that all great communicators focus on. Learn them and you will be successfully communicating as a leader.
Communicating with a purpose. Can you summarize the purpose of your message in one sentence? If you can’t, then your audience won’t understand the main point. You have heard some speakers say, “If you only take away one thing this is it…” Before you start any form of communication you have to know the purpose. It’s like Stephen Covey said, “Start with the end in mind.”
The purpose of communication is always to elicit an emotional response meant to inspire action.
That action may be very short term, like getting a laugh or tugging at the heart. The action could be longer term like embarking on the first step of a life changing journey.
Knowing the purpose of your communication is foundational if you want to communicate like a leader.
Communicating with a plan. Now that you clearly defined the purpose of your communication it’s time to plan how you will accomplish that purpose.
Here a few keys to include in your plan:
Be an expert in the facts before you share the facts. This is not a new concept. First century Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.“
Carefully select your words. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”
Entertain, encourage, and end on time. Not only will the current audience appreciate you, they might also be a future audience. The great British leader Benjamin Disraeli had advice for communicators: “Be amusing: never tell unkind stories; above all, never tell long ones.”
Communicating with practice. Once you have your purpose and plan, it’s time to practice. The more you communicate the better you will get. According to master communicator Brian Tracy, “Communication is a skill like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life”
Even after communicating as a leader myself for over twenty-five years, I never step in front of an audience without reviewing and practicing what I am going to communicate.
Communicating with passion Your communication is not complete unless the people who heard it feel enlightened, equipped, and energized to do something with your message right now.
If you want your audience to have passion about your message then you need to have passion about your message first. You may be an expert in the facts, but are you committed to the message. Do you believe it? More importantly do you live it?
Jim Rohn said it like this, “Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.”