The more I think about leadership, the more I think about the importance of communication. In fact, I would go so far as to say leadership is 80% communication and 20% all the other stuff like talent, ability and charisma. The reason I think communication is so pivotal is without it, leaders are not really leaders. In order to be a leader, one must have followers. How do you have followers? Standing in the middle of the room shouting “Follow Me” is not exactly the path I’d take. I know I follow others who inspire and motivate me. Again, how does that happen?
I am inspired by actions taken by others that I witness or are told to me. The actions normally revolve around a selfless or charitable event. Through these actions, I learn about the character of a person. The character of a person is then enhanced through direct interaction with me. How a person makes me feel plays a lot into my level of inspiration or motivation. If a person communicates in a way that is honest, compassionate and humble, it increases my respect for that person. On the flip side, an ignorant, brash and egocentric person may perform heroic deeds but the style of communication negates the action. While it may seem unbalanced, someone saving a small child from a car wreck who asks for no recognition or attention inspires me more than a person who saves a small child and then demands to tell everyone how great s/he is for the effort. The act is the same, but the communication and character is opposite.
Back to communication and leadership, I find it is not only the words we use but the way we use them that make the biggest difference. The tone of voice can turn an innocent question into an accusation. The words used may make the difference between engaging a team member in the project or pushing him or her aside. Probably the biggest impact, though, is when leaders don’t speak at all but just listen. It takes time and practice, but great leaders let others’ voices be heard first so their input is valued.
– Lori Buresh
CEO, The Professional Development Team