WHAT does it mean to be a leader? We hear the word leader bandied around a lot. For example, “business leader”, “political leader”, “thought leader”. Not all leaders are in the public eye. They are in our offices, our schools and our social clubs. The best leaders communicate their vision and inspire others to action. Without the ability to move from vision to action, we are simply a person with an idea. One thing leaders must have is excellent communication skills.
Leaders use speeches, presentations and updates to share their vision. When Julia Gillard made “that” speech in Parliament last month, her vision of politics became clear. Politics based on factual debate and dialogue rather than misogynistic opinions or personal attacks. The most fundamental role of a leader is to communicate. Having a vision or idea is a starting point. Speaking with other entrepreneurs and business owners, it is becoming increasingly clear that ideas are not enough. A leader must be able to scan the environment, make sense of a mass of data, translate it and share their vision.
Once the vision is clear, a leader inspires people to action. Simon Sinek, who specialises in how leaders inspire, uses Apple as an example. Sinek repeats Apple’s stance “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers”. The call to action is to buy Apple products and to spread the word. Effectively communicating a clear vision, whether about an ethos, product or action, is what makes a leader stand out. Manipulating people to get what you want, is not the same as leadership. Leaders create and develop loyalty so their team wants to perform.
As a leader, consider the following when communicating your ideas:
- Be clear: Ensure you have a clear objective in mind. If you are not sure why you are speaking or what you want your audience to do, they will be confused. Misinterpretation and misunderstanding can lead to flared tempers and discontent. A leader without an objective is like a gadget without a purpose — nice to have, but ineffective: sooner or later, it gets lost in the cupboard.
- Be flexible: Everyone takes in information differently. Some people like to see the picture. Other people like to listen to the words. Some like to get a feel for it. A leader ensures that they do what they can to get their message through. People cannot read your mind. Be dedicated to ensuring that everyone understands your vision by using targeted communication tools and techniques.
- Accept feedback: The mark of a great leader is an ethos of continuous improvement. Be open to feedback so you can learn how to get your message across. Feedback helps leaders share their vision while keeping one foot on the ground.
Great leaders are not the ones with the best titles or fancy offices. Great leaders are those that share their vision and inspire people to execute it. In a world where we wonder whether anyone is listening, better communication from leaders is needed more than ever.