Communication is the Oxygen of Leadership (Part 2 of 3)

Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator

Many American presidents have made an impact on our country as great communicators. Some examples are John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. But only one president was actually called “the great communicator”, and that was Ronald Reagan.

Reagan was a good executive because he possessed a clear vision, made decisions easily, surrounded himself with leaders with complementary skills, and delegated very effectively. But he was a great leader because of his uncanny ability to communicate. When it came to leading the country, people knew who he was, where he stood, what he wanted, and they couldn’t wait to get on board with him. His ability to communicate effectively made him the kind of leader people wanted to follow.

You may not aspire to be president, but every leader still needs strong communication skills. The success of your marriage, job, and personal relationships depend on it. People will not follow you if they don’t know what you want or where you are going.

Here I continue what I started last week, the 12 great principles of communication:

  1. Follow up on important communication in writing. The more difficult the communication becomes, the more important it is to keep it clear and simple. That often means putting communications in writing. It is not accidental that most marriages have vows, football teams have playbooks, and partnerships have contracts. When communications with your teammates is important, you’ll find it easier to keep everyone on the same page if you’ve written it down for everyone’s benefit.
  2. Give attention to difficult relationships. Relationships need attention to thrive. This is especially true of relationships between two people with the potential for conflict.
  3. Explain your intentions. Don’t presume that those around you understand your actions. In fact, often they misjudge your motives.
  4. Be candid and inclusive. Open communication fosters trust. Having hidden agendas, communicating to people via third-party, and sugar-coating bad news, hurt relationships. Some people hoard information unless forced to divulge it. Don’t be that person. If you can include others, do so.
  5. Keep it simple and clear. Communication is not just what you say. It is also how you say it. The key to effective communication is simplicity. It has been said, the three keys to good real estate are location, location, location. In the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, the three keys to good communication are “Be clear, be clear, be clear.”
  6. Seek a response. As you communicate, never forget the goal of all communication is action. Every time you speak to people, give them something to feel, something to remember, and something to do. The story is told of a young executive who was invited to speak to a group of managers for the first time. He went to his mentor, a seasoned executive, for advice on how to give a good speech. The older man said, “Write an exciting opening that will grab everybody in your audience. Then write a dramatic summary that will call the people to action. Finally, and most importantly, put the two as close together as possible!”

Check back next week as we conclude our review of the 12 great principles of communication.

If you missed the first part, you can find it here.

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