Management guru Peter Drucker once said, “Effective leadership is not about making
speeches or being liked; leadership is
defined by results not attributes.” I
don’t agree. Leaders need to use a variety of communication tools—
including speeches—to help everyone
understand the organization’s goals
and how they can contribute. That’s
what produces results. And that’s a critical role of leadership, especially today:
to communicate widely, often and consistently, in good times and in bad.
Helping employees understand
organizational goals has long been
considered a key role of leader-
ship communication, but building
employee engagement is a newer pri-
ority. In its 2012 Global Workforce
Study, the performance management
consulting firm Towers Watson noted
that one way to build engagement is to
create “an environment that’s energiz-
ing to work in…being able to see and
feel the pulse of activity—the intense
discussions, lively video or phone con-
ferences, the groups working a project
plan on an online whiteboard in real
time.” The link between communica-
tion, energy and engagement is clear.
When I’m asked what an execu-
tive—or someone aspiring to a leader-
ship position—can do to improve his
or her communication effectiveness
to help build engagement, my advice
is to observe how the top leaders of
high-performing organizations com-
municate. Watch, listen and read what
they say. Whether you are an executive
or an adviser to top leadership, here are
five examples of excellent leader com-
munication that makes a difference.
1. Keep your message simple, and
repeat it often. According to the Fast
Company article “Saving an Iconic
Brand: Five Ways Alan Mulally
Changed Ford’s Culture,” Ford’s chief
executive engineered the turnaround
by using an easy-to-remember four-point plan: “Mulally kept hammering home these four points in every
meeting, every town hall session, every
analyst meeting and press conference.” Evangelize—in your own style
and voice. Bryce Hoffman, a Detroit
News reporter who profiles Mulally in
the book American Icon, calls him the
cheerleader in chief.
Tony Hsieh, the widely
admired leader of online retailer
Zappos, may not project high
“wattage,” but he knows how to
build a fun, exciting—and successful—culture. And he does it
by literally letting employees write
the book: the book on culture,
that is. Instead of a top-down–
driven guidebook, Zappos has a
“culture book” made up of unedited submissions by employees.
2. Don’t hide your problems.
A lot of organizations say they’re
transparent. But being open—
really open—is challenging
4 more ways to be a great leader
The Towers Watson 2010 Global Workforce Study indicated that just 50 percent
of employees thought their senior leadership was effective. According to the
study, the top attributes associated with
leadership effectiveness were:
1. Being trustworthy.
2. Caring about the well-being of others.
3. Encouraging and developing talent.
4. Being highly visible to employees.
whether your stock
is publicly traded or
whether your customers hit the social media
channels to blast out
their horror stories.