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Many Leaders, Many Styles

Examples of leadership communication form the context and heritage of our culture, past and present. These include

  • Winston Churchill becoming prime minister of Great Britain in May 1940. Churchill rallied a nation under siege, inspiring hope and the will to persevere until victory over fascism was achieved.

  • Mother Teresa gaining support for her mission to the "poorest of the poor" through her prayers, writing, and public appearances.

  • George C. Marshall speaking to Congress on the need for military preparedness. He mobilized our armed forces to defeat fascism and later to rebuild a broken Europe.

  • Katherine Graham providing leadership at the Washington Post. Graham's steady hand on the helm enabled the paper to face down a president and to weather a crippling strike and become a preeminent publishing power.

  • Bill Veeck promoting baseball both as a game and as entertainment. Veeck's promotional outlook stemmed from his values of storytelling, listening to his constituents, and giving back to the fans.

  • Rosabeth Moss Kanter demonstrating the role of effective communications during transformational change. Kanter's writings have provided a roadmap for two generations of managers seeking to cope with and embrace the changes that have swept the management landscape.

  • Oprah Winfrey using her own personal stories to make connections with others in ways that dispel prejudice and illuminate and celebrate life.

  • Rudy Giuliani taking command at the site of the World Trade Center collapse. He served as the lighting rod for both the grieving and the rebuilding of New York City in the wake of September 11.

  • Shelly Lazarus demonstrating a leadership role in advertising management. She exemplifies how women can lead their companies as well as their industries and still lead fulfilled personal lives.

  • Peter Drucker writing on the role of management. He invigorated the role of management by providing insight and direction.

What all these leaders have in common is a commitment to a cause larger than themselves. Each of them is using communications to further the leadership message through words and deeds. Each understands that leadership communications binds leader to followers in a partnership that is founded in mutual benefit and cemented by trust.

Leaders need to do more than just stand up and speak. They need to integrate communications into everything they do as leaders so that their communications, both oral and written, emerge from who they are as leaders and within the appropriate cultural context. Leaders who fail in communications will fail to achieve their organizational aims.

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