“Every time you speak, you are auditioning for leadership.” ––James C. Humes
All communication is personal.
No matter how smart or talented you are or how well you communicate or present yourself, you will have little ability to influence others if you fail to make a personal connection with the people you lead.
Personal connection is about connecting intellectually and emotionally. Can I trust you enough to follow you? Do I believe you have my best interest at heart? Do you see me as an ‘ordinary employee’ or as an extraordinarily unique human being?
A leader’s most powerful communication flows directly from their values, passions, aspirations, and beliefs and is fueled by the emotions that these elements evoke. The big challenge for the leader is to shape their communication so that it also connects with the personal values, beliefs, passions, aspirations, and beliefs of their team members––rather than contributing to the omnipresent noise that exists in organizations today. It is through this personal connection that a leader can ignite the efforts of others in a singular important cause.
Here are three characteristics of great leaders who connect with others:
Great leaders connect through questions. How much do you know about the values, beliefs, passions, aspirations, and beliefs of those whom you lead? Make it a point this week to learn something new about each person on your team at a more impactful level. Skip the “how are you?” and ask more meaningful questions.
Great leaders are courageously vulnerable. Leaders that connect with others reveal important parts of themselves (within responsible limits). Speaking one’s mind and sharing one’s feelings is one of the most extraordinary acts of courage. When we share our struggles and past failures, we help others grow while building trust. This week, be vulnerable and courageous with a project or situation at work. What reasonable risk will you take this week that you otherwise would usually stand on the sidelines for? What bold action will you take?
Great leaders listen differently. They listen for values, aspirations, disappointments, and inconsistencies. Be intentional about how you listen to your team members this week. Do they talk about the things that are important to them? How might you lead or coach differently as you get to know the values, goals, and aspirations of those you lead?
Remember, great leadership communication is less about the efficient transmission of information and much more about the impact it has on others. The challenging question for all who seek to lead and get their voice heard is this: “Are the members of my team or organization more aligned, more committed, and more engaged because of what I say and write?”