Speaking at this week’s Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) insight seminar on authentic leadership, Sheila Hurst of Omilia Hurst made the point that leaders had changed from last to first message delivery and to be credible and effective needed to work on communicating with honesty, passion, empathy and sincerity.
All sensible stuff and listening to Sheila I found myself wondering if communication skills were really something needing to be learned by deconstructing delivery by people like Hillary Clinton, Richard Branson and Boris Johnson or, was it indeed, something that leaders natural did and the problem really lies in a shortage of these.
Leaders, we were reminded, like many people, lead multi-functional lives, the analogy with mothers however is a good one; being a partner, figurehead to the family, raising children, career, pastimes, interests, socialising to name but a few. Each role demands different skills, some of which are inevitably carried out better than others, however it’s the mother’s core character that underpins everything and in business would probably be called the ‘value system’.
The problem in business leadership arises if one of these core skills, communication, is weak and does not support an established value system. I believe communications coaching is not needed around perfect delivery of a carefully crafted set piece, but around recognising leaders as individuals; how they listen and understand their people, how they can make their points relevant and in context. It’s about leaders as people effectively connecting, engaging and motivating based on a value system as part of their everyday lives as if there really was nothing more important.
Inevitably the role of internal communicators is changing as well. Moving beyond defining key messages to a coaching role based on helping leaders to understand audiences their mood, expectations and feedback. Being proactive, questioning, probing, understanding personal and corporate purpose so as to support and build natural leadership character.
The Social Business environment I described in an earlier post is an environment that continues to remove barriers between the executive team and those on the front line. In this connected environment communication skills have never been more important. Listening 24/7, taking part and contributing are essential parts of effective leadership; internal communicators now have a much bigger role to play in enabling effectiveness within their organisation’s, building an engaging culture and enabling leaders to lead.