For nearly a decade, I have been helping leaders realize the power their communication skills have on their leadership effectiveness. It is a passion of mine, but I have a secret. Secretly, I got angry every time I heard leaders dismiss communication skills, soft skills, or emotional intelligence as a emotional preference instead of a hard leadership fact. I would get angry that is, until that same leader would call because his communication style cost him dollars or divorce. Not that I wish harm to anyone, but communication skills in some circles is still looked upon as a nice to have instead of a must have.
So when I came across these two references, I was excited to share them with you.
When asked what is great leadership, the Chairman of the Creative Board at Saatchi & Saatchi, a global communications and advertising agency said, “Leaders listen”. He went on to give examples of the most successful Futbol coaches and how they listen in order to create and coach champion teams.
Here is his brief statement.
I also came across a TED talk by 4 star General Stanley McChrystal titled Leaders Listen, Learn, then Lead. In his talk, which has over 1.5 million views, the general talked about paratrooping, 9-11, and how he learned to be a different kind of leader. A few highlights from his talk were:
” So, how does a leader stay credible and legitimate when they haven’t done what the people you’re leading are doing? And it’s a brand new leadership challenge. And it forced me to become a lot more transparent, a lot more willing to listen, and a lot more willing to be reverse-mentored from lower [ranks].”
“I came to believe that a leader isn’t good because they’re right; they’re good because they’re willing to learn and to trust.”
“Instead of giving orders, you’re now building consensus and you’re building a sense of shared purpose.”
What I love most about both of these sources, Senior and McChrystal, is that they focused on communication skills as the basis for good leadership. I also loved that both came from traditionally macho environments–advertising and the military-where soft skills were once dismissed as “touchy feel-y”. Now, they view perhaps the softest of all soft skills, listening, as strategic and necessary for success.
I encourage you to watch Seniors clip, and the 15 minute TED talk by General McChrystal.
What insights did they provide about the importance of communication?