In my last blog I wrote about how leadership matters. Specifically that the leader's image and hidden messages impact their teams' behaviors. I believe that wholeheartedly. I believe it because I've observed it and nothing is more observable than what happened during the 2016 Presidential Race. Again - this is not a political blog - I am a leadership/management blogger. However, 2016 was a HUGE lesson in leadership style and the leader's impact on others from these races. I'd like to focus on leadership communication this go around.
My first observations are these: Of the three viable candidates, the candidates that created the most excitement and the biggest buzz were easily understood. You know who those two are. The other candidate, however, while doing well in the pre election polling and finally winning the popular vote but losing the electoral college was under suspicion because nobody was really sure what she stood for. Confusion it seems thwarts trust, i.e., if I can't understand you must be lying. So here's the crazy thing: one candidate is promising to build a wall (for free even) that he most likely will never build, the other was promising free stuff that he can never deliver on in my lifetime (and still is this go around), and the third was promising continuous improvement to the status quo, which she was likely to accomplish, but she was not believable in some areas of the country. How come? Beats the heck out of me....but the consensus is both personality and message fell flat. What must leaders do to craft a compelling and honest message while taking us to greater levels of realistic achievement?
Leaders must shape public opinion not reflect it. A great leader is always informing - not reacting. He must surround himself with a diversity of thought so that consensus can be built, continuous learning achieved and the direction is forward. The leader shares her vision and demonstrates the courage to respect what is or what was while depicting what will be. That is the hard work of visionary leadership. Compared to that, the next steps are relatively easy:
- Communicate respectfully, enthusiastically, honestly and directly.
- Be courageous enough to tell the truth and let folks know what's in it for them.
- Convert confusion to action and hard work. Show them the path.
- Convince them to follow you - the leader - and that with courage and hard work you'll be successful together.
- Remember, a leader is only successful when she can achieve success that's shared.
About leadership communication, the key takeaways are these:
- Don't tell your team what they want to hear and play off their "feelings". Channel those feelings into positive thought and action by articulating a vision
- Communicate truthfully always. Don't make promises that can't or shouldn't be kept just to provide instant gratification for yourself and your team. It's not fair and a waste of energy.
- Be professional and direct when delivering your message whether good or bad. It shortens the adjustment period and allows your team to operate productively.
- Build a diverse network so that your vision and message have a broad appeal and incorporates diverse ideas and thought processes, and,
- Never stop. Change is constant so your message must be an evolving entity that will reflect current trends and new thinking!
You can't hang on to a past that no longer works in the present. Your energy must be used to make progress; by understanding the reality of today, where you want to go from here and the plan to get you there. Allowing yourself to believe that backward is possible is a waste of energy. Leaders owe you more than that for your trust. Follow the leader that tells you the truth and shows you the plan. Real leaders will be sure in their convictions, forthright and organized. You'll never regret the truth. Pandering for followers is eventually transparent and off-putting.
I am learning so much from our political system but admittedly it scares the heck out of me. Further, this blog is superficial in that key issues around the patriarchy, feminine contribution and empowerment are so vital but deserve more thought and a dedicated blog to come soon. I think I have enough fodder, fuel and facts to write a few more blog bits. This is the greatest show on earth and I thank my lucky stars that I live in a country where it's put out there, warts and all, for us to see.