The link between great communication and leadership
As a corporate communications adviser and consultant, I’ve had the chance to work with leaders on a wide range of issues that have had the potential to damage careers and reputations.
From this unique vantage point, I’ve been very fortunate to see outstanding leadership and communication in action, particularly during times of crisis, disruption, uncertainty, complexity and change.
One of the privileges of my job is working with leaders who understand the value of strategic communication and place their trust in people like me to help them shape messages, position views and communicate well with employees, customers, shareholders, government, media and the community.
Over the years working with many different leaders, I’ve learned that:
- In order to help leaders perform at their best, it’s important for communications professionals to understand the qualities and attributes of a good leader. By doing this, we can help leaders identify their communications strengths and preferences, and work with them to bring their unique style and leadership qualities into their communications.
- There’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter approach to leadership and there are many different styles and attributes of good leadership. By observing good leadership in practice, we can distinguish what separates being in a position of leadership from being a good leader.
Political journalist, Shaun Carney, explored these concepts by interviewing 25 prominent Australian leaders for his book, The Change Makers, including Oxfam CEO, Helen Szoke. They both shared their insights in a wide-ranging discussion with Hillary Harper on ABC Radio’s Life Matters.
Here’s a summary of the key themes from the interview that communicators can keep in mind when working with leaders to express their vision and engage with their audiences:
- You need to be a good human to be a good leader – good leaders build trust by having a participatory and democratic leadership style. They are empathetic, consultative and aren’t afraid to show emotion in their leadership and communication.
- Good leaders are pathfinders who have a strong sense of purpose – they clearly explain their vision and are driven, ambitious and passionate about leading change and making a contribution.
- Good leaders are willing to do the hard things – they are willing to take risks, admit when things go wrong, learn from failure and are prepared to expose their vulnerability.
- Good leaders understand what others expect from them – they act with integrity and understand that people need certainty to make decisions. They are transparent, fair and accountable.
- Good leaders make it possible for people to contribute – they mentor others and recognise the value that people bring to an organisation. They identify other leaders in their teams and create opportunities for them to contribute and grow.