Great leaders are great communicators.
Leaders’ effectiveness depends on their ability to inspire, engage, and activate many people to reach for and work for a shared vision, meet common goals, and create significant results together.
Being a great communicator is one of top ten characteristics of great leaders.
Powerful, effective leaders know when and how to communicate, no matter what’s going on with their teams or organizations.
Leaders may face many different emotions at different times in the teams that they lead (and, by the way, in themselves). Some people are excited and energetic, others feel fear, pressure, confusion, and at times, weariness or boredom on the long path to a major goal.
Great leaders know when to observe, when to listen, when to talk, when to show.
And they use all the vital communication skills of leadership effectively.
They also know that the most powerful communication of all is their attitude and their actions – far more than what they say in any circumstance.
Imagine any of the world’s great leaders and what might have been different, had they been an average communicator, at best.
For example, think of Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or any of many other world leaders without their powerful oratorical and other communication skills.
Leaders face different communication needs and challenges, depending on the circumstances in which they’re leading their organizations. Here are a few of the main ones:
1. Normal, predictable cycles of operations
These circumstances involve vision-setting, planning, regular action, follow-up, problem-solving and process improvements.
During these times, great communication focuses a team or organization on goals, the path and processes to reach them, roles, consistent check-in points, the ways that progress is evaluated and ensured.
2. Major change or improvement efforts
These circumstances may involve reorganizations or mergers and acquisitions, very rapid growth, major improvements and other types of significant change.
During these times, great communication focuses on what is or will be different, how the change will be achieved, ways of evaluating and communicating progress, as well as how to sustain momentum as change proceeds.
It is essential that leadership communications and processes at these times keep people focused, energized, engaged and encouraged as they go through the often very difficult work of change.
3. High-stress or emergency communications
These include natural disasters, such as earthquakes or hurricanes, and man-made disasters, such as on 9/11/01 in the US, and during stressful times when US and world financial markets lurched wildly in 2008, and the recovery period afterwards.
During these times, great communication is focused on providing clear directions so people can try to meet their immediate and then longer-term health, safety, security and other needs.
In addition, there’s often a strong need for community in high stress times, with ways for people to share, express and process their often-frightening, yet memorable, shared experiences. (These are the conversations that begin with questions such as, “Where were you when you heard the news?” or “Where were you when it happened?”).
No matter what type of circumstance leaders and their organizations are in, most of the same stages of communication must be successfully addressed:
Earn and hold the attention of their audience.
Reach people in a personally significant way so that they can relate to what is being communicated, “enroll,” and take appropriate action.
Create a clear path for the many individual actions needed to achieve shared or individual goals.
Inspire people to draw on – and continue to draw on – persistence, if it is necessary to see a difficult effort through to completion.
Ensure that actions are moving along as needed in order to reach goals and significant milestones.
Coordinate efforts and information so that people can reach goals, solve problems, and create success, hopefully, in the easiest, clearest, most effective way.
Acknowledge that major goals have been achieved, and create closure in a valued, positive way.