Communicating Like a Leader

by Eileen Wixted, Wixted & Co., Des Moines

Eileen Wixted

Eileen Wixted

In the time it takes to read this paragraph, 25 people joined LinkedIn. Twenty-first century technology has re-shaped our notion of how, when, where and why we communicate. The Internet and digital communication move volumes of information at warp speed. In fact, technology has created a myth of what constitutes effective communication. A text message or e-mail is not

communicating—it is simply the act of informing. Technology has replaced a great deal of face-to-face communication today. If you want to be truly persuasive and impactful—communicate in person. When you are given that opportunity, leverage it fully by communicating with the goal of persuading and motivating your audience. Informing alone is not enough to meet a business goal today.

Leadership communication takes into account the importance of using communication as a strategic tool to shape perceptions and help drive results. The result may be a greater understanding of the mission of your organization or an increased sense of loyalty towards your company. Stakeholder interactions are strategic when there is a clear goal and when the speaker first seeks to understand his or her audience.

Effective leaders are audience-centered and recognize the value of connecting with their audience. An audience-centered approach that tunes into how the audience feels about an issue creates a listening environment and instant credibility for the presenter. Research consistently shows that audiences have specific expectations when listening to a presentation. They expect the speaker will not waste their time, must know the audience and has spent time finding out what is important to them long before the presentation began. Nothing makes an audience tune out like a presentation that is disjointed or irrelevant. Communicators must be organized, know their subject and clearly deliver the main message of the speech.

Leaders have a greater communication challenges than others, and can only be effective if they can persuade and motivate people to follow. A leader with no followers soon is unemployed. Too many times individuals don’t spend or invest the energy to prepare their communication to their direct reports believing foolishly that they have a captive audience. In fact, effective and compelling leaders give their internal audiences the same or even more attention than any others.

Strategic communication, like every other discipline, is a race in which no finish line is ever crossed. Every time you talk, you have the opportunity to communicate or inform—the importance is to know the difference.

As the principal of Wixted & Company—and a founding partner of Wixted Pope Nora Thompson & Associates (WPNT)—Eileen is a nationally recognized expert in strategic communication and crisis management. She actively helps clients effectively manage potentially brand-damaging issues and prepares them to face media interviews, shareholder meetings, presentations and government investigations. She will be presenting at the 2015 IBA Marketing Conference April 30 – May 1.

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