Communicate Like A Leader

Communicate Like A Leader

Communicate Like a Leader

By Mark Wager

Managers communicate in a way that informs yet leaders communicate in a way that inspires. The best leaders communicate in a way that connects with their team. They empower their team and install a sense of belief and power that enables them to reach a level of performance that they didn't believe was possible. How do the best leaders do this? Apart from a few exceptional cases, it's not natural to show leaders how to communicate in a way that influences people to act the way that the leaders wants. Communication is such a common and natural part of our day that we fail to analyse how we communicate and more importantly how our communication impacts people. Leaders must know that by learning a few simple techniques and adapting their language they can greatly improve their effectiveness as a leader. In this article I'm going to share some of these tips.

Be clear about the purpose of the message

The most common mistake I see managers make is that they see communication as a method of relaying information and plan accordingly yet I coach leaders about the need to think and plan one step ahead. A leader communicates not to share information a leader communicates in order to encourage a specific behavioural change. By way of example, if a team is bidding for a new contract, the purpose of the message is not to tell everyone the details of the new bid but instead the result the leader wants is to have staff motivated and willing to work hard to win the contract. The difference may seem minor but the results are radically different. A quality leader believes the purpose of communication is not to deliver information but instead to change or inspire behaviours to achieve the necessary outcomes.

Be a storyteller

One of the few things that has survived throughout the history of mankind is the sharing of a story. The methods of story telling has changed dramatically through history but a good story evokes emotions and inspires us. Who hasn't cried when watching a romantic or sad movie or laughed when reading a funny novel. Despite the methods of storytelling, the essence of a story remains the same. There is a hero or a heroine. There is an obstacle in their path and they find a way to overcome that obstacle. Storytelling is an important tool for a leader and when quality leaders tell their story, they ensure that the listener is the hero of the piece. Its them that will overcome the obstacles and it's them that will have the happy ending.

Keep it simple, keep it significant.

I've seen too many leaders fall into the trap of spending way too much time in communicating a simple message. This has been made worse by the invention of PowerPoint. If you want to inspire your team, that will never happen through a slide. It will only happen face-to-face. People inspire people. Slides don't. Ditch the slides and keep the communication short and effective and you will find having several quick stand up meetings far more effective than one long team meeting. If you've been doing your job correctly, you've already hired some smart people so they should not need to be told what to do, they just need motivation to do it.

It's not what you say but what people hear that matters

Have you ever been in a situation that you have two colleagues that have had a disagreement?The first colleague approaches you and tells you what happened and then you talk to your second colleague who also tells you what happened but both stories are very different. Who's lying? The chances are that neither are lying they just have very different perceptions of the same situation. This is a natural occurrence, just as when people have different opinions on the same movie because people process information in very different ways depending on their natural preferences, their upbringing, their beliefs and environment. Quality leaders know that they need to adapt their communication in order to ensure that the listener hears the message in the way it was intended.

"You" for praise, "we" for action

If you want to inspire your team then every word counts, a misunderstood word can change the complete intention of the message so it's important to get the details correct. When your communication involves praise then ensure you use the word "you" in order to ensure that the praise is directed at the team, yet when you speak about action, stop saying "you" and focus on "we" repeated over and over. A leader doesn't need to include themselves in the praise but it's vital that they include themselves in the action. It's "we" that makes a team successful. The leader needs to make it clear that we are all in it together and the leader will take off their jacket and work as hard as everyone else.

Control the narrative

The last tip I will leave you with is the most important. Above all else, a leader has to control the narrative with their team. Let me explain this further. The narrative is the story that people are talking about, it's what they say when you are no longer in the room. It doesn't matter what people tell you to your face, it matters what they believe in their hearts and it's the narrative that decides this. The narrative is not just determined by the words of the leader but by their actions and the decisions they make. They all have to align otherwise people will never truly believe the leader. When a leader communicates they need to be authentic, honest and sincere and their actions need to reflect this.

Communication for a leader is a very long and complex topic. I spend days and sometimes weeks with leaders showing them how to master this often overlooked art. If you want to know more about this then feel free to join me at the Lead With Giants Tweetchat this Monday 18th 7:00pm ET. Look out for the hashtag #LeadWithGiants and join in the conversation.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at

Posted: Sunday 17 April 2016

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