How to Communicate Like a Great Leader

communication

Leadership, like life, is a journey and not a destination.  

Now I must emphasize one point before you start reading this column that will attempt to make you a better leader. Writing and doing are two different things. Yes, I have spent the last 10+ years of my career studying what the best and worst leaders do, then transferring those lessons to myself and others, but I have struggled mightily to apply many of these lessons daily. Instead of crushing my soul and believing I am not meant to be a great leader, it’s convicted me to constantly look at the journey of becoming a better leader rather than just arriving as one.  

I have learned that the closer you get to being a truly authentic leader, the less you feel like one.  

The closer you get to being a truly authentic leader, the less your feel like one. 

In many things, ignorance can be bliss, but not in leadership. There is nothing worse than a manager who isn’t self-aware of their shortcomings as a leader. It’s caused more professionals to leave a company or a profession altogether than any other factor. Don’t believe me? A recent study found a staggering 79% of employees will quit after receiving inadequate appreciation from their managers.

Many Leadership Skills Matter

There are many talents and skills leaders must develop and demonstrate to be effective over time. Our research indicates building trust, having empathy, establishing a vision, giving recognition, and coaching others are essential. However, communicating effectively is at the top of the list. 

It could be as simple as writing an email, giving a presentation, sending a text, or turning on your listening ears. Regardless of the type of communication, the key is that you’re effective at it. I like to think of it as the essential rule of leadership. “If you struggle with communication, you will never reach your potential as a leader.”  

If you struggle with communication, you will never reach your potential as a leader.

As I wrote in Building the Best, the key to successful leadership today is elevating others. So the problem with not reaching your potential as a leader is you won’t be helping others achieve theirs.  

The Big Communication Mistake

There are a lot of gifted orators with silver tongues and unmistakable mannerisms. At the same time, many professionals clam at the thought of delivering a presentation. Regardless of the camp you are in, or somewhere in between, there is one communication mistake anyone is susceptible to make, and that is demanding and downloading, not inspiring.  

Too many leaders demand and download instead of inspire when communicating.

This doesn’t mean every email or conversation must have your audience ready to run through a wall, but it does mean you have to be more concerned with the audience than the person doing the communicating. The word inspire means “to breathe life into.” You can’t breathe life into someone or get someone else to take any action they wouldn’t otherwise take if you don’t get past their mind and into their heart.  

Communication improves when leaders get to the employees’ hearts, not just their minds.

I was reminded of this truth in a conversation with a talented therapist named Kimberly Mengel. She said, “the heart is the wellspring of life.” It’s stuck with me for some time now because I have repeatedly seen when leaders fail in their communication, they never get to their people’s hearts.  

How to Improve Your Communication

There are all kinds of tactics and strategies to become a more effective communicator. Instead of going into the depths of storytelling or the three C’s of successful communication, I want you to turn your attention to two things; how much you speak and being more transparent.  

1.How Much You Speak – Being an exceptional listener is key to being a great communicator. Not only is this true, but Simon Sinek took it a step further in a keynote some years ago, when he spoke about “being the last to speak.” You can watch the short clip here

As brilliant as this idea is, I know it’s not always possible. Instead, turn your attention to “how much you speak.” Your goal as a leader shouldn’t be to tell people what to do. It should be to help them determine what to do and what can be done to implement it. This means speaking less and asking better questions.

2. Be More Transparent – All too often, when there are things leaders must say to people, they avoid the topic or sugarcoat it in a way the truth never comes out. Instead, I want you to opt for more transparency in your communication. The reason is transparency implies openness and accountability. 

I asked Robert Quesnel, a seasoned executive and phenomenal leader at American Family Insurance, why leaders aren’t transparent, and what he said moved me. “Many leaders aren’t transparent because they are insecure narcissists and lack confidence in themselves.” Not only is Quesnel right, but too many leaders hide behind the shield their title provides instead of being transparent and telling the truth. 

Too many leaders hide behind the shield their title provides instead of being transparent and telling the truth.

Closing

The best part of communication is you get endless opportunities every day to work on improving. I hope some of these ideas inspire you to evaluate how much you speak and how transparent you are in and effort to apply them on your leadership journey.

Tell me in the comments Do you agree and what tactics or strategies do you or others leaders leverage to be effective communicators?

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and VP of Thought Leadership at Peoplebox. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why Great Leaders Always Bring Out the Best in Others

solution

Never underestimate the power of great leadership.  

There is something special about people with the will to win. Whether it’s something they are born with or something they develop throughout life, you always want them on your team. 

It turns out, that many great leaders possess an intense desire to win. They are driven to overcome obstacles and are relentless in their pursuit of their team to achieve success. Look no further than Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder.  

He was traded in the offseason from the Houston Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Most experts gave the Thunder a 1.4% chance to make the playoffs before the season. Beating the odds, Chris Paul propelled his young and inexperienced team to the #5 seed in the NBA Playoffs. While they took the Houston Rockets to a game 7, they lost in gut-wrenching fashion 104-102 on Wednesday night.

After the game, fighting back the tears, Paul said, “We fought hard; obviously, a lot of people doubted us, but we didn’t doubt ourselves. The way we played all season long and in every game, we expect to win, and that’s what makes this loss so hard.”

But it’s not Paul’s will to win that’s so impressive; it’s his leadership. His teammate Danilo Gallinari said earlier in the season, “I’ve played with a lot of players in my 12 years in the league, I think he’s the best leader that I’ve played with.” Gallinari continued, “He’s smart, he knows the game. He knows how to talk to each and every one of us. He knows how to manage the pace of the game. Other than the fact that he’s a great talent, amazing talent, all these things make him a great leader.”

Leaders don’t always win, but they always bring out the best in others.

Chris Paul teaches us all an incredible lesson about leadership that leaders don’t always win, but they always bring out the best in others. They not only set themselves up for success but, most importantly, the people have the opportunity to influence.

Sports and Business are Different

Chris Paul is from the world of sports that has a clear winner and loser after every game or every series. Business is different. Simon Sinek brought this idea even more clarity in his book, The Infinite Game, “Despite the fact that companies are playing in a game that cannot be won, too many business leaders keep playing as if they can.” 

While there are certainly times where a company wins a deal over a competitor or a product outperforms the competition, they’re only “winning” for a finite amount of time. With the on-going nature of business, the intense desire to win is a powerful skill for leaders to possess, but it’s the other part of the equation that’s most important to me. 

Leaders always bring out the best in others.  

Great leaders are always striving to win, but they never lose sight of lifting others up, and they work relentlessly to help bring out the best in others. If you want to be this kind of leader, focus in on doing these three things for your teammates:

1. Encourage Them

No one is exempt from getting discouraged. The word “courage” comes from the Latin root “cor,” which means “heart.” So literally, the word discouraged means “disheartened.” We need leaders to encourage us and keep us moving forward.

To encourage your team, start by focusing on the words you use because words are powerful things. I don’t know a better, more powerful phrase for you to use with your team on a regular basis more than this, “You have more than this moment requires.” Here are a few more of my favorites:  

“You were born for this.”

“If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

“You haven’t given up yet for a reason.”

“You are a blessing.”

2. Challenge Them

One of my first professional jobs was working for my dad. While those years were rocky, he did something with me constantly that showed how much he cared. He challenged me. 

While his methods for challenging me could be argued, I had little doubt he cared about me because he knew I was capable of more. By challenging me to raise my game, he showed me he cared (even if I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time.)

Challenging people is so important because it’s human nature to only stretch ourselves to the point where we feel discomfort. Often it takes someone challenging us to go further or reach higher for it to become a reality. 

Here is the key, having solid relationships and a strong bond of mutual trust is critical for you to challenge them in order to get a positive response. Below are a few of my favorite times or places to challenge someone on your team to show you care:

  • Their preparation for a big event or meeting
  • Their effort in developing their skills
  • Their focus during a critical time
  • Their ability to think more creatively and innovatively

If you help make other people better, then don’t be afraid to challenge them lovingly. 

3. Serve Them

Covid-19 is the epitome of challenging times. People are concerned about their health, finances, and future more than any time in recent history. Since each person is affected by it differently, the ways in which leaders serve should also be different based on the individual. 

Serving a team takes two different forms: 

Direct Service. Serving team members directly is done through actions that someone else immediately experiences. This includes, but is not limited to: helping finish a project, sharing feedback to help a person improve, and giving resources (money or network introductions).  

Indirect Service. Serving team members indirectly is mainly done through advocating for them when they aren’t present. This can include taking a pay cut so a team members’ job isn’t eliminated or recommending them for a promotion. 

Both direct and indirect service are powerful ways you can exhibit your willingness and ability to put someone else’s interests ahead of their own.  

Closing

Midway through the first quarter of Game 7, Chris Paul passed the ball to an undrafted rookie on the Thunder named Lou Dort. He was wide open but passed up the shot. During the next break in the action, Paul approached Dort and encouraged him to take the shot because they needed him to be aggressive offensively in order to win. Dort responded to his leader by scoring a career-high and team-high 30 Points in the game 7 Loss. 

Now we will never know if Dort would have played at such a high level without Chris Paul’s words of encouragement, but since I never underestimate the power of great leadership, I am pretty sure it had something to do with it.  

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping improve the performance of struggling managers. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The Daily Challenges Leaders Must Overcome to Be Successful

challenge

As he verbalized his most significant leadership challenge, it was apparent there wasn’t a simple solution.  

“Our company looks at its leaders as player-coaches, so I am responsible for my results and the results of my team. How do I balance driving business results with taking care of my people?” He continued, “When push comes to shove, I have to work on this account worth six figures instead of training the new hire on my team who is struggling. So what do I do, let her fail, or choose the revenue?”

What this high-potential front line manager described is a macro challenge faced daily by not just him many leaders. The reality of the situation is that he didn’t have to choose one or the other. He had to commit to both. As a leader, he is responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.

“Leaders aren’t responsible for the results. Leaders are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.” Simon Sinek

As an individual contributor to the team, his results are his responsibility. Thus making the balance of time and energy between both responsibilities a key to his success. 

This common, yet complex challenge got me thinking about the more extensive balancing acts leaders face every day. These are the three significant challenges leaders face daily:

Metrics vs. People

Recently it was reported that Salesforce cut 1,000 jobs while the stock surged after an incredible earning report. Even though a spokesperson for the company said, “We’re reallocating resources to position the company for continued growth,” it provides evidence to support the delicate balance between metrics and people. 

I have written before; there’s a substantial difference between the title of “manager” and the actions of a leader; one is vastly more important than the other in today’s business environment. However, most job responsibilities for people in positions of leadership are related to reporting metrics and sending performance reports. While there is nothing wrong with the metrics, many tasks eventually will be automated and replaced by technology.

The more leaders lean into focusing on their people and their daily habits, behaviors, and choices, the better the results will be. 

Love vs. Discipline

The best leaders today use a style of leadership, often referred to as servant leadership. Author Pat Lencioni said it well, “We shouldn’t call it servant leadership anymore; we should just call it leadership.”

While Lencioni is 100% correct, leaders also need a methodology to lead this way. In our research, we’ve studied leaders who do this well. The common thread was their ability to balance high levels of love and discipline in the way they lead.  

While some may shy away from using the word love in the workplace, I assure you it’s in no way referring to any sort of HR violation. Instead, I define love in Building the Best as “to contribute to someone’s long-term success and well being.” 

Researchers at the University of Berkley studied what motivates productivity in professionals. They found when people felt recognized for the work they did, they were 23% more effective and productive. But what’s even more astonishing is that when people felt valued and cared for, their productivity and effectiveness experienced a 43% increase. While recognition is essential, there was an additional 20% jump by in performance by showing your people you care or love them. 

But balance is essential. Therefore, if you have love, you must also have its counterpart, discipline. In Building the Best, I defined discipline as “to promote standards in order for an individual to choose to be at his or her best.” This means setting high standards and holding others accountable for meeting and exceeding those standards. 

Achieving a balance of love and discipline in a servant leadership approach is not an easy task. The best leaders not only embrace the challenge, but they excel at it giving their team-high levels of both. 

Short vs. Long-Term Decision Making

Often short-term and long-term views can contradict each other, while other times, they are in direct alignment.  

In today’s short term business cycle, most leaders are prioritizing the short-term over the long-term, and who can blame them. The pressure from executive teams, investors, and even their bosses lends itself to “get results now, and we will deal with the future later.” 

I coach leaders to leverage Colin Powell’s 40-70 Rule when making a tough decision, then running it through both the short and long-term ramifications. If you aren’t familiar with the 40-70 rule, Powell says, “every time you face a tough decision, you should have no less than forty percent and no more than seventy percent of the information you need to make the decision.”  

This makes so much sense because if you are making a decision with less than forty percent of the information, you are taking a wild guess but if you wait until you have over 70% of the information, you are making it too late. The art of this rule is using both your intuition, experience, expertise, and also the priorities of short vs. long term ramifications. 

Closing

I told the leader in the LearnLoft Leader Program, “if leadership were easy, everyone would do.” He is capable of navigating these challenges and so are you.

You have chosen to be a leader and to embrace the responsibilities that come with the territory. Your people are counting on you to rise to the challenge.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping improve the performance of struggling managers. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

14 Influencers Who Will Help You Be a Better Leader

People are spending an enormous amount of time each day checking social media. A recent study showed teens are spending as much as nine hours a day, and the average person is spending roughly two hours.

In today’s fast-paced, content-saturated world, who you choose to follow is massively important to your development as a leader.

Instead of trying to change your behavior by checking social media less, you’ll be better served to take a lesson from Tony Robbins: “Who you spend your time with is who you become.” If you are spending two-plus hours online, people you follow online are influencing you, whether you like it or not.

Here are 14 thought leaders you must be following online in order to be a better leader:

Simon Sinek

Simon became well-known for his “Three Golden Circles” TED Talk and hasn’t slowed down. He is constantly stretching people’s thinking about leadership, organizational structure, and busting myths about Millennials. My biggest takeaway from Simon is:

“Leaders aren’t responsible for the results. They are responsible for the people, who are responsible for the results.”

John Maxwell

John really needs no introduction but if you are unfamiliar, he is the author of 21 Laws of Irrefutable Leadership among others. In many ways he has pioneered the modern world of leadership development and he continues to teach and inspire the next generation of leaders. My favorite Maxwell quote is:

Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.

Jocko Willink

The former Navy Seal is by far an away the most intense person on the list. The author of Extreme Ownership and host of the Jocko Podcast will push you to levels of discipline you didn’t think were possible from a book, video, or podcast. My favorite Jocko quote is:

“Discipline Equals Freedom”

Dave Ramsey

Dave made millions in his 20s and proceeded to go broke. He clawed his way back to the top by starting a radio show in Nashville. It’s now called The Dave Ramsey Show and it reaches over 10 million people weekly. He is just a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. Here’s one of my favorites:

“Success is a pile of failures you’re standing on top of, instead of underneath.”

Christy Wright

Christy is an amazing woman who works under the tutelage of Dave Ramsey. She brings an inspiring message and voice to people everywhere. Her brand new book, Business Boutique, is extremely well done. She’s a model for work-life balance, inspiring thousands of people to take control of their family and business life so they can work together instead of against each other.

Jon Gordon

Jon is the author of 17 books and his latest, The Power of Positive Leadership, is outstanding. He really should just be called the “positivity guy.” I know with 100 percent certainty that this world needs more optimism and positivity. Jon helps leaders and organizations find just this every single day. One of my favorite quotes includes:

“Great leaders see greatness in others.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

The love-hate relationship I have with Gary is real. Every time I think I am going to start ignoring him, he delivers insight or content that stretches my thinking and motivates me to hustle harder. He is a bit aggressive at times (OK, all the time) but it’s his style, and I appreciate his authenticity. Notable Vaynerchuk insights include, “If you are good enough, no one is stopping you,” and “Nothing valuable comes quick.” But my favorite, which is so important in leadership:

“The journey is everything.”

Lolly Daskal

Lolly has dedicated her life’s work to leadership development and executive coaching. Her brand new book, The Leadership Gap goes a level deeper than most writers are willing to go. As she says:

“We are here to be our most valuable.”

Tim Ferriss

Tim is called the “Opera of Audio,” and his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, has reached over 80 million people. He burst on the scene with his book The 4-Hour Work Week and has gone on to publish three more. Ferriss covers a wide range of topics, so no matter what you’re passionate about, he has covered it and covered it well. His new TV show, Fear{less} is a must watch for any professional leader.

Carson Tate

Carson might be the least known on the list, but she is fantastic. She is an expert when it comes to productivity at work and at home. She is a brilliant teacher and inspiration to professionals everywhere. She’s best known for her personalized approach to productivity called “Work Smarter, Not Harder.” Her content is exceptional on LinkedIn and is paramount for any leader who wants to create better and more balanced lives for their teams without taking a hit on performance.

Tony Robbins

Tony is the man who really modernized the thought leader. His books and programs have motivated, inspired, and changed millions of lives. He has written four best-selling books and, at age 57, feels like he is just getting started. While some people don’t love his approach or style, it’s hard to argue with the results and passionate fan base he attracts around the globe. One of my favorite Tony quotes:

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

Tim and Brian Kight

The father son duo host of the Focus 3 Podcast constantly deliver a system of leadership principles that are timeless. Whether it be E + R = O or Eliminate BCD (blame complain defend) it’s applicable for a 5 year old to the CEO of a major corporation. You can listen to my interview with Brian here. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Tim:

“Leaders are people going on a journey and taking other people with them”

Patrick Bet-David

One of the most important parts of leadership is achieving positive results. Bet-David brings an incredible amount of energy and optimism to the world of entrepreneurship and capitalism. Just this week on the Follow My Lead Podcast he said:

“The sooner you can get clear on what you want, you will have an edge on everyone else”

Can’t believe I almost forgot…

Patrick Lencioni

Patrick is the author of one of my favorite leadership books “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.” He has an unbelievable handle on servant leadership and it’s importance in the workplace for organizational health. One of my favorite leadership quotes for young leaders comes from Lencioni:

“Don’t be scared by a job you haven’t yet had”

A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My LeadPodcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. You can find him on instagram @johngeades.