By Joseph Guarino
Leadership success and communication skills always have been inextricably connected. A leader without communication skills will not effectively articulate a vision, gain confidence, or get employee commitment or buy-in.
In today’s increasingly “flatter,” or less hierarchical organizations, everyone — at every level — is encouraged to engage their leadership muscle. More than ever you have a chance to impact your life, relationships and your organizations through effective communication. Here is my take on five steps to improve your leadership skills through effective communications.
Drop Your Ego
Let’s face it, we have all had the dreaded experience of a pretentious boss who just oozed raw ego. Never mind sitting through a presentation given by such a painfully obtuse individual. We should acknowledge how little we were motivated toward any action by leaders communicating in this manner. Our leadership success involves dropping this sense of the world revolving only around the isle of self and focusing it on our organization, its goals and vision.
As public speakers, we should realize that our communications are not about us; instead, the focus should be our audience and our message. When not skewed by the distorting lens of ego, we can reframe our public speaking, presentation and communication skills as successful leaders.
Communication isn’t a monologue but rather a two-way interplay. Leaders realize they must actively listen to achieve the outcomes they envision. True leaders engage in the lost art of listening no matter what the situation. They do so while presenting to a group, by actively asking questions, getting audience involvement, and profiting from feedback and insights. The practice of active listening should happen everywhere: in one-on-one situations with customers, in the board room and even on stage.
True listening means taking more questions, offering audiences more chances to share insights and concerns. Fundamentally, it means making every effort to understand others before you seek to be understood. Even seasoned professional speakers seem to forget to engage this valuable skill – don’t let this be you.
Body Language & Voice
Whether we realize it or not, our body language and voice communicate volumes to those we connect with. Many incorrectly perceive that our communication is simply the words we speak. In leadership roles it is vital that our body language and voice help and not hinder the reception of our message. This plays out on stage as well as in day-to-day, one-on-one situations. It is to our fundamental advantage to use open body language and the power of our voice to effectively amplify our messages – regardless of where we deliver them.
Positive, open and assertive stance and body language show that you are confident, focused, and primed to deliver results. Couple that with good eye contact, a smile, and proper vocal variety and you will be sure to astound and inspire any audience.
Belief oft drives behavior. If we as leaders hold negative attitudes and beliefs and live by them, others will follow our not-so-positive lead. We should make the conscious decision to exude the attitudes we want to see from those we lead. As speakers that means we have to bring these positive attitudes alive in our presentations and speeches. In all our other communication situations as leaders we should bring to our message the power of our positive attitudes.
This positive attitude means shunning ruminating over failures rather than working on solutions, or using negative language rather than staying focused on your goals. It means you choose a path to the best future outcome of your organization and communicate it as such. A large part of that is driven by core beliefs and attitudes.
Communicate & Live Your Vision
Every effective and successful organization has a clear vision for the future. Without it we are lacking in direction and focus. As a leader, one of your most fundamental objectives is to communicate that vision to employees, peers, customers and potential customers. They should walk away from your presentations understanding that vision. Even more important is that you walk the walk and live this vision.
As a leader your authenticity speaks volumes to anyone you hope to lead. If they perceive that you aren’t buying into your own message or vision, neither will they. Rather, live that message with the same fervor and intensity you expect your audience, employees, or others to experience.
All of us in our own unique capacities are leaders. Our communication skills make or break the outcomes of interactions with those in our organizations and personal lives. It is my hope that you can put to use these simple steps for successful leadership communication on stage and in person everywhere.
Joseph Guarino is owner and senior trainer of the Institute of Public Speaking, a Boston-based international public speaking training organization. You can connect with him on all major social networks.