If you had to run a survey with your colleagues and direct reports to ask them about your communication style, what would they say about you? Would they say that you articulate your ideas clearly and convincingly? Would they say that they find your messages inspiring and motivating? Most of all, would they say that you are authentic and credible? Ultimately, do they follow your lead? Think about it.
People long for authentic leaders who communicate integrity, vision and wisdom. They want genuine leaders who inspire trust and willingness to create successful organisations. A unique authentic style is critical to your success as a leader. Speaking like a CEO is about projecting a set of qualities and doing it in your own unique style.
Leaders have different styles of communicating, and there is no one right way. During training workshops, I often get asked if there’s one correct, specific style to deliver a message. And the answer is a definite no.
Firstly, it depends on the speaking situation, who you’re speaking to, the content of your message and the context within which it is being delivered. Then, there’s your own unique style as a speaker. Let’s face it, it would be utterly boring if all the best leaders spoke in the same style.
So, there is no one sole formula for communicating well as a leader. Of course, there are guidelines, tools and techniques. But then, it’s about being able to blend your own speaking style alongside the best techniques to project your unique speaking voice. Yes, you need to know the rules of the game, yet once you know those rules you need to manoeuvre your own path. It’s about developing your own authentic voice of leadership. And that’s for you to figure out, so that the real you emerges.
The number one quality that authentic leaders convey is honesty and integrity. Great leaders also have a vision for the organisation and are able to articulate this well to inspire action. Arne Sorenson, who until recently held the role of President and CEO of Marriott International, embodied the right qualities to deliver this remarkably well. Arne, who passed away recently following a fight with pancreatic cancer, will remain known for his outstanding and genuine style of communicating with his employees, his counterparts and the community. He demonstrated vulnerability and courage at the same time when sharing updates on his personal medical situation, and all this whilst steering the company through the havoc that COVID-19 brought to the hospitality industry. Arne spoke the truth, recognising that this was one of the hardest times that the company had ever faced and which had led to a number of tough decisions.
Authenticity requires a degree of openness, allowing others to see who you really are. You need to be willing to reveal an element of yourself. Being open to people makes them trust you more.
So how can you develop your authentic speaking voice as a leader?
To speak like a leader, your message needs to ring true. People want a leader who does not play around with words. Building a reputation for honesty can take you a long way.
To connect, you need to be real. Your job is to find a way to build a bridge to make a connection. Think of your interests, your work experiences, life experiences and look for what is common. When you identify a common trait, build on it to relate to your people. Great leaders and speakers are able to humanise themselves whilst maintaining their authority. After all, people want to know your feelings, your reactions and your opinions. When you are able to share those characteristics with your people, they see you as a real human being and connect with you on a deeper level.
Sharing your values is a sure way to build bridges. People prefer leaders who have the courage to speak up, to talk about their convictions and to challenge the status quo. Expressing your values and acting on them will enable you to earn the respect of your people.
You don’t always have to be ‘the CEO’. You can be an ordinary person too. So why not share a little bit about you, beyond who you are on the job. Family and friends, interests, travel, entertainments, sports and other passions. Honour your roots, speak about your upbringing and your childhood. When you share your story, others can relate to you more.
Remember to inject a dose of fun. Richard Branson enjoys life and it’s one of the reasons for his success. Take a look at his ‘fun’ stories on social media. People are attracted to fun. And Branson makes speaking, like everything else, fun. You can tell that he enjoys recounting stories and talking to people. So, whilst speaking and connecting with others, don’t forget to have fun along the way.
Leaders who communicate well succeed because they can articulate their vision, share wisdom and motivate others to action. Whether you are the CEO, or aspire to be a CEO someday soon, you have an opportunity right now to develop and grow one of your greatest assets – your authentic voice of leadership. Honour your uniqueness and share it with others. Speaking is more fun when you do it well, in your own unique voice. Don’t be afraid to let the real you shine through – that’s how you will win the trust and respect of your teams, your clients and your audiences.
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