What makes the difference between great leaders and the rest? I don’t think it is one thing, and not always the same thing for everyone, but I do think it is in transition.
In the world before the 24/7 globally connected business world relentlessly coming at you, it was a simpler time. Businesses were perhaps more “local” and as such you knew one another, or might bump into one another as you went about your life. Business leaders were human and real. And, in some small towns this reality is still true. In my experience, however, leaders are increasingly remote, removed and protected from these interactions. One of the casualties of this is the ability for them to connect with their organization and to clearly guide them.
Remember the game of telephone from childhood? It happens in big business today. What about the corporate videos that are used to replace first hand interaction? They are opt in usually; and if they are mandatory, they are sometimes so chalked full of ideas that you walk away not remembering much of anything or perhaps the wrong thing sticks. Recently I was at a conference and heard talks from two CEOs, both women. One meandered around a variety of topics and used a lot of general buzzwords to communicate her point of view, which upon her conclusion was unclear in my mind. The other riveted the audience, connecting, inspiring us. Her leadership point of view was clear, simple, concise and I walked away really impressed, thinking that I’d love to work for her. What was the difference? Leadership Voice. Both were accomplished. Both were passionate about what they did. However, the second CEO had honed her leadership voice. She had done the hard work to decide what her message track would be, had honed it so that it was engaging with her audience and then stay disciplined to not stray from it in her talk. I was spoiled at P&G. P&G believes in the power of a message track and a leadership voice. I never realized until now how important that skill is in this modern, globally connected economy.
Think about it. It is not enough to have a good idea or to be in a position of leadership. You need to be able to tell your story clearly and persuasively so that it sticks. Are you spending the time to do it well?
Three components to hone to build your leadership voice:
1) understand your stakeholders–your audience of employees, supplier networks, investors. Who are they and what do they need from you? Design Thinking Empathy Tools can help here and structuring some candid conversations with your stakeholders can truly inform you on the challenge you face to get through. I am able to help you in this if you need some help to set the conditions for candor.
2)Map out your Story–what is it you are trying to communicate? Story as a business tool is another powerful asset you can harness–Here’s a helpful website that can help you explore this approach.
3)Work with a Pro to hone your message. Here is a link to one of the best I have encountered in my career. He coaches Presidents, CEOs, leaders on how make sure you get through what you hope to get through to your stakeholders.