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Leadership Communication Strategies

Once you know the issues facing an organization, you can plan your communication strategies. Communication strategies should echo the vision, mission, and business strategies of the organization. They should be telling people where the organization is headed, how it will get there, and what people need to do to make certain they are in alignment with the organization. The communication strategies are designed to

  • Develop and reinforce the bond of trust that must exist between leader and follower. Position the leader as one who can be trusted and is worthy of support. Winston Churchill and Rudy Giuliani were the right leaders at the right time when people in peril needed their guidance and leadership.

  • Affirm the organizational vision, mission, and values. Reinforce what the organization stands for and what people in it believe. Robert Redford founded Sundance Institute to support independent filmmaking, and he continues to actively support its mission through his actions and communications.

  • Facilitate a two-way flow of information throughout all levels of the organization, including manager to employee, employee to manager, and peer to peer. Enable communications to flow upward from follower to leader. Upward communications keeps the leader in touch with the people and enables people to have their voices heard, thereby promoting a shared stake in the enterprise. Rich Teerlink at Harley-Davidson emphasized open and honest communications as the means of effecting lasting, positive change.

  • Create the impetus for organizational effectiveness (e.g., making things happen). Tell people what is happening now, what will happen next, and what will happen as a result of their actions. Steve Jobs lets people at Apple know why they should care about their work and gets them excited about the difference they are making in the world of design and technology.

  • Drive results. Achieve what the organization is supposed to do: Make great products, deliver terrific service, improve people's lives, and so on. Jack Welch was a master at pushing the organization to achieve its stated goals, and he used his communications to prioritize the importance of making the numbers.

The other part of the leadership communications equation is giving people reasons to want to embrace the strategy. You develop your messages as reasons for people to support the strategy. Keep in mind that there is a natural overlap between purpose (as described in Chapter 1) and strategy; in some cases they are one and the same. Strategies and supporting messages echo one another to support organizational goals.


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