(Forbes previously published my article here.)
How do “leaders” get labeled in your organization? While most organizations these days have a special emphasis on “developing leaders,” selection to these groups varies widely—from seasoned senior managers being considered for promotion to the executive ranks . . . to those members with less than three years’ experience about to become a first-time supervisor.
Despite these variations in who gets labeled as a leader, they typically have five characteristics in common: all evident in their communication style and habits.
5 Ways Your Communication Marks You As A Leader—Or Not
As a leader, you know how to gather information and input from many sources. You can analyze and synthesize information into a clear, coherent message that everyone can understand. You work hard to avoid jargon, insider lingo, and examples that connect with only a few. You use precise words, short sentences, and a simple message that everybody on the team understands. You fight complexity like an enemy.
When you walk into a room, your body language says you plan to engage. By your presence, you exude energy, passion, caring, an air of authority.
When you speak, you command attention. Conversation opens up to include you. When you ask a question, people respond. When you offer an idea, coworkers give it serious consideration. When you take initiative, others follow.
As a leader, if you “own” a meeting, you facilitate the discussion and lead the group to analyze, decide, or act. If you’re a participant, you engage, contribute, and take responsibility for results. This is not to say you monopolize or fail to listen to input from others. But it does mean that when you’re in charge, you lead. And when your role is to follow, you engage and participate fully.
With a group, you do not hold back in “safe” mode, operating on auto-pilot.
Credibility With Peers
You have built a track record of trust by communicating in an accurate, direct, and positive manner. Your past interactions have been based on accurate facts, relevant data, and solid reasoning. Your conclusions and recommendations typically “pan out” over time.
And on the few occasions when you may have been inaccurate or may have misjudged a situation, you have acknowledged your mistake and held yourself accountable. As a result, this accountability has increased—rather than decreased—your credibility.
Their track record continues to provide you a shortcut to further trust and influence.
You do your homework. When you deliver a presentation, write an email, or submit a report, you’re persuasive. Because of the power of your communication style, you persuade others to change their mind, to consider your conclusions and recommendations, to buy a product or service, to change the way they do things, to accept feedback or change, or to engage with the mission.
Your words have impact because they deliver substantive results. Your work makes a difference to others, to the team, or the entire organization.
With you, people get what they see. No masks. You are who you appear to be.
Your communication underscores your authenticity. Who you are comes through in your word choices, tone, body language, attitudes, habits, and daily actions. People around you see congruency, not hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy leads to distrust and rebellion; congruency attracts respect and followers.
The resulting likeability continues to expand your reputation and impact. Congruency with core values deepens respect. On the other hand, incongruency—hypocrisy—can shatter credibility overnight.
On the Other Hand…
If all the above does NOT describe you, your situation, and others’ reactions to you, then you may want to double-check your communication style against those leaders who succeed at the highest levels. Strive to
- Synthesize input from many sources into a clear, simple message
- Engage with a commanding presence
- Build a track record of credibility with your peers
- Persuade with high-impact, substantive work
- Demonstrate authenticity, keeping your communication consistent with who you are and what you value
Your impact depends to a great extent on how you communicate. Ask any leader or their supporters.
Learn more ways to stand out as a leader with Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire and Get Things Done. Download an excerpt by clicking here or on the image below.