For today’s organisational leaders it’s important to be able to adapt to new circumstances, stakeholders and environments. This does not mean changing principles, values or beliefs - some political leaders seem to move with the wind of change when their focus is on themselves rather than a real belief in their cause. For leaders to survive and thrive they must manage the conflict between being true to themselves and what they stand for and the need for followers and supporters if they are to bring about the change they desire.
There are five fundamental questions that leaders need to focus on.
- What Do You Stand For?
- Why Should They Follow You?
- What Will Be Different?
- Who’s On Your Side?
- Who Listens When You Speak?
Presence - This is not about choosing extraversion over introversion and feeling that you and your message must be broadcast at all times. It is about recognising your ability to be present and helping people notice you and feel you to be accessible. Eye contact, smiling, openness of expression, initiating greetings, listening to people and responding to people around you are all factors that affect your presence. The very best actors are trained to be able to fill the theatre with their presence and, when needed, shrink their presence so that the audience has to crane in to be part of their world. Leaders can (and do) learn a lot from this.
Memorable Messages - Practised spontaneity might seem to be a contradiction but it is one of the skills that top leaders are taught by their coaches - particularly media coaches. This consists primarily of knowing precisely what your message is and knowing what questions you might face as a leader. With these in mind, mental rehearsal and (even better) practising and getting feedback are what makes a leader and his or her message more memorable.
Modern leadership is about learning. Recognising the forces in play, the new circumstances the unexpected issues and learning from them. One of the paradoxes of leadership is having the confidence to act whilst not being over-confident and thus missing potential threats and opportunities. Eric Hoffer said: “In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” And Benjamin Franklin: “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished”
The essence of the leadership question “Who Listens When You Speak?” is to have the most impact and influence with the least effort. Top leaders have speechwriters and coaches to help them say the most with the least words. You can learn some simple rhetorical devices by searching the web and building these into your delivery to increase your presence, authority and reputation so that when you speak, people listen.