Over years of working with people from many fields on three continents we have asked leaders to identify their biggest communication challenges and concerns. Their responses frequently include how to be calm under pressure; how to convey both warmth and authority; how to appear credible and genuine; how to be clear, compelling and articulate; and how to be more inspirational. These are their top concerns.
The leaders expressing these concerns are often in very senior roles proving that good leadership communication does not get any easier for people as they progress in their careers. It appears that senior leaders still struggle to overcome seemingly basic leadership communication challenges.
More than presentation skills
Often we either take oral communication skills for granted or assume that a couple of days spent learning presentation techniques, negotiation skills or media training and the like will give us what we need to succeed. Leadership communication goes way beyond what is traditionally taught as presentation skills.
Some of the most crucial leadership tasks include engaging the hearts and minds of multiple audiences; inspiring people to give their best; persuading and influencing key stakeholders and clients; nurturing important relationships; facilitating dialogue and the exchange of ideas; and, most importantly, crafting messages to bring vision to life, making priorities clear and directing people’s focus and energy. It is impossible to do these things without a set of sophisticated communication skills and many leaders fall short.
The voice is underestimated in everyday business
One of the best tools in any leader's tool kit is his or her voice. Business professionals rely heavily on the voice but most know little about how it works and how to use it optimally. Insufficient attention is given to developing the vocal techniques and performance skills to ensure we engage and inspire confidence in others. In most businesses, the door is closed on reaping the considerable benefits to be gained from an effective voice use and a more inspirational communication style.
The voice used well is a transformational tool
In the alchemy of leadership, a leader’s voice is an essential ingredient. Its quality, vibrancy and expressive ability can bring words and images to life in a way that transcends the literal meaning of words. The voice can animate words to stir emotions, release fresh insight and inspire confident action. The voice can help sustain a sense of possibility in others and transform lives, communities and organisations.
Any neglected, voice without tone, colour, variety, energy and melody risks being dull, unappealing and open to misinterpretation. Such a voice would struggle to inspire achievement, face-down critics or win the confidence of an array of wary investors, constituents, clients or stakeholders.
Performance training can help you to overcome fear of being in the spotlight of attention
It is time to get the balance right between the necessary intellectual frameworks for understanding leadership and what we call the ‘felt experience’ of leading. Aspects of performance training can help leaders to explore what it feels like to be fully and powerfully present in the moment; to learn how to be relaxed, open and fully attuned to the situation at hand; to open up the full range of the leader’s vocal instrument; to use the body, silence, time, space, words, melody and rhetoric to hold people’s attention; to compel, inspire and engage others and give people a hint of a higher order of understanding, knowing and feeling through the power of a leader’s imaginative and interpretative skills. These are just some of the communication challenges for leaders.
Practical learning experiences can be designed to unleash the talent of our leaders to communicate more purposefully and powerfully. During challenging times, we need our leaders to speak confidently, sensitively, cogently. Self-aware leaders are conscious of their short comings in this area. Few take the time to invest in serious development in this competency area. It's a pity. They limit their own personal achievement and that of the organisations they lead.
Veronica and Charles – are two of Australia’s most experienced voice, leadership communication and leadership development coaches.
They work with a range of private & public sector clients to expand their personal authenticity and develop the professional skills to communicate, lead, and influence in today's constantly challenging business world.
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