LEADERSHIP COMMUNICATION: THE LEADER IS THE MESSAGE
By Kate McNamara, Director of Presence Corporate Affairs and part of our Commtract community. This article was originally published on her website and can be found here.
The grubby, undignified and undisciplined behaviour that has mired Australian politics for so long plumbed new depths with the recent #libspill.
What millions of Australians- not to mention people around the world- witnessed was a ‘101’ case study in how NOT to be a leader.
It provides many lessons for professionals, from crisis management and engagement, to reputation management and negotiation.
One of the ways for business leaders to learn from this is to look at the mess through the lens of leadership communication.
WHAT IS LEADERSHIP COMMUNICATION? Great leaders inspire, motivate and effect change through the things they say, how they behave and what they do. At the heart of this is authentic communication. Great leaders are great communicators.
The leader is the message.
And leadership communication is different to everyday communication because it is designed to convey meaning and influence people by focusing on three things:
1. Who we are 2. Why we exist 3. How you can help us succeed. Effectively, it’s the story of ‘why?’ A story carefully conceived, crafted and executed to connect and engage with people, build credibility and trust, and inspire action to deliver desired outcomes.
This is a story that must be shared by a team of leaders and re-told, consistently and continuously, in a controlled manner, with purpose.
It’s not just what’s said, but how it’s said and the things that are done by the leader to support it.
So, in this context, what are some key learnings for leaders from the recent #libspill events?
Be authentic Without it, there is no credibility or trust.
Invest in your story The disunity laid bare for all to see from the government suggests the Federal Liberal Party has lost its identity. There is no shared story, no unifying ‘why’.
The only ‘why’ still being asked and remains unanswered is why it all happened in the first place.
It takes time, strategic thinking and collaboration to develop the ‘why?’ It should anchor all other leader communication so it’s imperative that you get it right.
It must be clear, succinct, truthful and memorable. Above all, it must be inspiring.
Build a team of leadership communicators All leaders in the team have an important role to play in sharing the corporate story.
Of course, this requires the team to be unified in its purpose, have shared values and be committed to work together towards the same goal.
Enrol them through better, practised and active listening and incorporating their ideas.
Understand your audience While Federal Liberal Members spoke of representing their constituents, reports of voter backlash and dissatisfaction suggest the Members really did not know- or blatantly disregarded- them.
Building trust, driving engagement and inspiring action to achieve desired outcomes requires leaders to understand who they’re trying to influence – their motivations and values- and adapting communication to suit.
Craft clear messages One of the biggest problems we’ve seen is different and confusing messages from various people. This was exacerbated by backflips on policy and position.
Be clear about what you’re doing and why. If it changes, explain it. Keep it simple and succinct and ensure everyone is ‘on message’.
Capture hearts and minds With all the undermining, backstabbing, vitriol and claims of bullying and intimidation it’s no surprise that the level of mistrust and disaffection with politics and politicians is at an all-time high.
For leaders to inspire, motivate and effect change they must capture the hearts and minds of their people. This requires solid argument, emotional connection and appropriate behaviour.
Listen Find out who your people are and what they expect and want.
Put self-interest last and act in the interests of those you serve.
Kate is an accomplished, senior corporate affairs professional with more than 20 years’ experience in communication, media, public relations, brand management, stakeholder engagement, government relations and issues and crisis management across a number of different industries including oil and gas, mining, technology and construction. Specialising in strategic communication, reputation management and positioning, Kate has provided high-level counsel and tactical support to executive teams and managed the corporate affairs functions for some of Australia’s largest and best known brands and projects.