Leadership is communication, yet too many business leaders do not understand or appreciate this very basic truth. It may not be entirely their fault, though. In a review of the top MBA programs across the nation, communications courses are missing from every one of their core curricula. When communication is viewed as an elective, is it any wonder that it receives the same level of contempt and dismissal in real-time business dealings?
The importance of communication in business—as in every other area of life—cannot be treated so lightly without suffering the consequences later. Consequences such as employees merely working for a paycheck, not pulling together for a shared and commonly held cause; customers purchasing on a commodity basis, not on a belief in a brand promise that represents value to them; and investors who abandon their shares in exchange for investing in an organization that promotes and lives according to its clearly stated raison d’être.
The best leaders know that solid communication makes achieving their vision and goals easier, smoother, and faster. But assuming that communications can be successfully handled as an afterthought is a mistake too many business leaders make. The message, how it fits with the overall strategy and business plan, how it dovetails with the current level of understanding among key constituencies, and how best to convey it to those varied audiences with authentic power and passion— all these factors need to be understood, respected, and valued as early in the decision-making process as possible.
Leaders who know this and live it as part of their regular business dealings enjoy the benefits and rewards that follow. Those who don’t? Well, they are left open to abuse, misunderstanding, rumor, and just plain wrong ideas that can siphon away important resources in time, effort, and money to correct. Those leaders are left like a jackass in a hailstorm—they just have to stand there and take it, because they’ve set themselves up that way.
The good news? Leading with a solid communications approach is not difficult. It only takes an appreciation and execution of a simple strategy that has been proven virtually foolproof. It’s based on four key ideas:
- Leaders must accept the responsibility to communicate.
- Leaders must align their communications strategy with their business strategy.
- Leaders must amass meaningful messages that flow from and support the strategy.
- And leaders must announce those messages with power and passion.
Climbing the ladder of organizational success isn’t easy. For those who make it to the top, or close to the top, much is expected. Make your numbers each quarter, keep expenses controlled, manage to maximum productivity and profitability. That’s what makes the world of business go ’round, and there’s nothing wrong with any of it.
At the same time, though, having the big title doesn’t necessarily make one a true leader. Employees, staff members, direct reports— whatever label you prefer—may listen to the person out front, but that doesn’t mean they are true followers. Yet to be a true leader, one must have true followers.
For any leader to effectively lead and be perceived as a true leader, communications must be part of the management mix. No, strike that—communications shouldn’t be just one part of the mix; it must be the underpinning, the foundation, the bedrock supporting every single part of the mix.
Everything begins and ends with a simple notion that makes all the difference in whether leaders and their businesses thrive: Leadership is communication.
Tim Hayes, nationally recognized communications consultant to CEOs, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 412-963-0794. To get Tim’s book, “Jackass in a Hailstorm: Adventures in Leadership Communication,” visit http:// www.amazon.com/Jackass-Hailstorm- Adventures-Leadership-Communication/ dp/1453658882/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8 &s=books&qid=1283197761&sr=8-1
If you missed Tim Hayes' Lab Manager Academy webinar “Energizing Your Team Through Effective Leadership Communication”, originally broadcast on Wednesday April 6, 2011, visit www.labmanager.com/leadership to watch the archived video.