Campbell Soup until mid-2011, they
were an important way to express his
appreciation to employees. In a
Washington Post article, “A Case for Letting
the Introverts Lead at Work,” Conant
is said to have written some 30,000
employee thank-you letters during his
10 years as chief executive.
5. Be real. Another “tell it like it is”
chief executive is Warren Buffett, widely
viewed as one of the most successful
investors and business executives of all
time. Although few people would put
annual report letters on their must-read
lists, Buffett’s letters have been described
as down-to-earth, conversational and
witty by the Harvard Business Review.
His candor in presenting bad news has
been widely lauded as well.
Great leaders are not born. Neither are
great communicators. They make a lot
of mistakes; they evolve. If something
doesn’t work the first time, try it again
in a different forum with a different
group. I once worked with a chief exec-
utive who came across as low energy,
flat and almost devoid of emotion
when he spoke in front of groups. But
put him in a brown-bag lunch or small-
group meeting and he came to life. He
actively listened to what employees had
to say—and it showed.
Although imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, leaders need to
get comfortable with what works for
them. Urge your leader to experiment.
It takes a lot of practice and a genuine
desire to communicate. That means
starting at the beginning—with listening. Encourage your leaders to ask a lot
of questions. Think about what would
have meaning for the audience. Emphasize how leaders need to be consistent
with their messages, but find creative—
and different—ways to present them.
Ask them for examples and anecdotes.
Point out the ones you think could be
amplified and would make excellent
stories. And share some stories of your
own—highlight some leaders you’ve
discovered who are successful storytellers and whose businesses are doing well.
see for yourself
“Imagining the Future of Leadership,” a symposium held by Harvard Business School, brought together leadership experts from around the world to
identify the major ways in which leadership is changing in the 21st century.
Check out this video showcasing the major trends the experts identified.
about the author
Karen Vahouny, ABC, is a
and an adjunct professor at
Marymount University in