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The Art of Leadership Communication 6 rules for effective communication By Pavan Sriram We have become a very “wordy” world. Words convince us to buy and sell, that we are loved, that we are in danger, and that we really, really need what a seller has to offer. Some people are called “wordmakers” because they make up new words or redefine an existing one. If we do not have something to say at a critical moment we may be seen as deficient. When topics are discussed, our silence can be seen as ignorance. Our opinion may be sought when we really do not have one but feel pressured to say something. Too often we only focus on the “what” and forget the “how.” The “how” determines if what we say will be understood and retained. Without the “how”, our words will disappear from the listener before its desired effect takes place. Into this world likewise, leaders are thrown. If they are not careful, they will fall into the trap that “words alone” can bring. Instead of words, the leader has to think in terms of communication.   Looking back at your last message to a client or a team member, how did you do? Did you add a visual illustration, interactive opportunity or immediate application that required some form of action? With this understanding, we realize that communication is an essential leadership skill. Leaders are the founders of the future Globalization is rapidly redefining today’s business environment. Significant strategic shifts are transforming the playing field. Vast opportunities for growth are emerging at the same time that the pool of high-performing talent capable of seizing those opportunities is shrinking. Those who can stay ahead of the rapid pace of change, anticipate talent needs, and take the lead in developing innovative strategies for the future who will likely be tomorrow’s winners. It is the leaders challenge to create the circumstances that stimulate improved performance and execution from the people within their organization. The key question for business leaders is not “why” high performance but rather “how”? Leaders of the future will need to be adept conceptual and strategic thinkers, have deep integrity and intellectual openness, find new ways to create loyalty, lead increasingly diverse and independent teams over which they may not always have direct authority, and relinquish their own power in favor of collaborative approaches inside and outside the organization Leaders who do this build a sense of shared purpose by painting a compelling vision of the future. They answer these questions: Where are we going, what does it look like, what are the benefits, what role do I play in the success? The differentiator is consistency. The best leaders know they need to paint this vision over and over. At every opportunity, they share the vision of what’s ahead. Eloquence isn’t a requirement. Have a clear picture of the end goal, be consistent in how you describe it and create opportunities to engage with the influencers who can make or break success. According to PWC’s12th Annual Global CEO Survey, as well as information obtained from their Human Capital Effectiveness Report – the following four revolutions are translated into four leadership success for the future, each of which embodies a set of clearly defined communication behaviors: 1. The agility leader 2. The authenticity leader 3. The talent leader 4. The sustainability leader Communication is the lifeblood of Leadership  As leaders we are called upon to counsel, cast vision, set goals, make plans, and chart the course for the ship we are leading. The bigger the ship the slower it turns. You must communicate often the little changes and steps of progress to keep everyone on board and on the same page. If the ship is small, then you need to communicate clearly so you do not lose people overboard if you turn too quickly. The perception of leaders is a key factor impacting the structures that they represent. Therefore, when planning their communication we not only consider the institution’s brand equity, but also the social messages being imparted through these leaders and their institutions. The ability to facilitate effective conversations is critical at every level of leadership. For frontline leaders, communication is part of launching a new product, facilitating customer interactions, or coaching team members. Even making good decisions can largely depend on how input from others is sought out. We sometimes assume interaction skills are mastered as leaders move up the ladder. After all, presumably they have been at it for a longer time. But as you will see below, nothing is further from the truth. Yet, the importance of interaction skills is even greater at higher leadership levels. Executives must deal with broader and more diverse groups of stakeholders who pose significant challenges to their interaction skills. They need to balance the needs of multiple constituents who often bring competing needs and perspectives to the table. And, working on and executing longer-term strategies—among the most important executive roles—also require successful conversations An early Harvard Business School study on what it takes to achieve success and be promoted in an organization says that the individual who gets ahead in business is the person who “is able to communicate, to make sound decisions, and to get things done with and through people” (Bowman, Jones, Peterson, Gronouski, & Mahoney, 1964). By communicating more effectively, managers improve their ability to get things done with and through people Leadership communication depends on the ability to project a positive image, or more specifically, a positive ethos, inside an organization and outside. To understand ethos, it helps to look back at the original definitions found in the writing of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle identified three types of leadership excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 04.2014 54


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