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Lecture Notes: Leadership and Communication
There is a high demand for leaders who are able to communicate effectively. An early Harvard Business School study on what it takes to achieve success and be promoted in an organization emphasized the importance of communicating, making sound decisions, and getting things done with and through people. According to Maxwell (2010), “People cannot succeed in life without communicating effectively” (p. 2). Unfortunately, many leaders have overlooked this important concept and are unable to connect to others while communicating. In today’s global society, it is important for leaders to be able to connect with their followers because it creates an atmosphere of unity, equality, and transparency. A leader should know that he or she has connected with followers when he or she senses:
extra effort (followers go the extra mile),
unsolicited appreciation (followers say positive things),
increased communication (followers express themselves more readily),
enjoyable experiences (followers feel good about what they’re doing),
emotional bondedness (followers display a connection on an emotional level),
positive energy (followers “emotional” batteries are charged by being together),
growing synergy (followers effectiveness is greater than the sum of contributions),
unconditional love (followers are accepting me without reservation).
In order for organizations to continuously improve and innovate, leaders should master the art of connecting to others because of the short-term and long-term implications it will have on job performance, organizational commitment, and quality of work life.
By connecting to others in the workforce, employees feel empowered and valued resulting in higher productivity and performance levels. Maxwell (2010) explains, “Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence on them” (p. 3). This strategy of connecting, appreciating, and valuing others in the workforce can be a more useful intrinsic reward or incentive for enhancing productivity levels when compared to extrinsic cash incentives which has become the norm in many organizations. Thus, by recognizing employees and humanizing the workforce, leaders are actually reinforcing the fact that connecting to others equates to everyone being respected and valued.
Leaders who are able communicate and connect to others are able to influence followers on a deeper and personal level. “All great communication has one thing in common: the speaker said something that people remembered long after the talk was finished” (Maxwell, 2010, p. 184). Furthermore, Maxwell (2010) prescribes the following advice, “If you already work at connecting with people, you can learn to become even better at it. And if you haven’t previously tried to connect with others, you will be astounded by how it can change your life” (p. 17). Connecting to others should become an automatic skill for leaders.
How to Connect with Followers
When connecting to followers, it is important to understand that a leader can connect to followers in different settings, and different approaches are indicated. A leader can connect with followers at three different levels: one-on-one, in a group, and with an audience.
When connecting one on one, it is important to put the emphasis on the other person rather than yourself.
When connecting in a group, validate people in the group by complementing tham on their ideas or actions.
And finally, when connecting with an audience, take the time to make the listeners feel that you are really excited to be with them. Think of how a rock band or political speaker always begins with saying how “happy I am to be back in Cleveland”!
Each level of connecting requires different levels of energy. Connecting always involves expending energy. It may be obvious, but it is no less true that the larger the group, the more energy a leader must exert in order to establish that conection. Connecting and communicating effectively on an intellectual level requires knowing two things: your subject and yourself. People have a short attention span which is why it is so important to use the connecting strategy; if the audience can relate to what is being said, they are more likely to listen. “People can perceive a lot in seven seconds. They can decide that they do not want to hear anything a speaker has to say, or they can be struck by how much they are attracted to someone” (Maxwell, 2010, p. 55).
The image that a leader projects is a silent – but important part of creating that attraction. Effective communicators are well dressed and groomed which relates to a leader’s outer image. Similarly, it is important for a great communicator to be able to use facial expressions to convey specific messages. “Great actors can tell an entire story without uttering a word, simply by using facial expressions (Maxwell, p. 56).
Effective communicators are able to attract others by sharing experiences that others can relate to. For example, a leader trying to connect to his or her followers can explain how he or she has been in their shoes and more importantly, can relate to their experiences. This simple connecting factor of relating to the experiences of others is possibly the strongest method of establishing connection, and can help a leader promote higher standards, enhance morale, and advance performance levels within an organization. X.
Leaders who have an ethical image and who are trusted are able to influence more people. Maxwell (2010) states, “To be an effective connector over the long haul, you have to establish credibility by living what you communicate…If you don’t, you undermine trust, people disconnect from you, and they stop listening” (p. 231).
Great leaders know how to use words to inspire. A prime example of an effective leader and communicator who was able to connect with millions of people was Martin Luther King Jr. “Listen to Martin Luther King Jr. and you will be inspired by his words. Words are the currency of ideas and have the power to change the world” (Maxwell 2010, p. 67). Great leaders are able to connect to others by continuously emphasizing key points. If you are communicating with others, whether you’re speaking to a child, leading a meeting, or giving a speech to a large audience, your goal should be to get to the point as soon as you have established a connection with people and to make as great an impact on others as you can with as few words as possible. Great leaders and speakers do this consistently.
Leaders are also known to be unpredictable when they are communicating. “The more predictable listeners think you are, the lower the impact you make on them. Conversely, if you lower your predictability, you increase your impact” (Maxwell, 2010, p. 185). When communicating, it is also important to emphasize the importance of timing, use of right words, leaving a lasting impression, and making the experience enjoyable. Maxwell (2010) explains,
“Timing is often the difference between success and failure in an endeavor. Good communicators understand the importance of the right words” (p. 222);
“All great communication has one thing in common: the speaker said something that people remembered long after the talk was finished” (p. 184); and
“Perhaps the most effective way to capture people’s interest and make the experience enjoyable when you talk is to include stories” (p. 191).
You will submit a PowerPoint presentation with a voiceover. The presentation should consist of at least 8 slides explaining the implementation of a new organizational policy (e.g., no cell phones on the job) and an audio recording of your presentation (no more that 5 minutes long) where you (a dedicated leader) communicate the benefits and implications of your policy. The goal is to be able to influence (e.g., ethos, logos, pathos) your followers/audience to embrace this organizational change.
Once you have completed the PowerPoint presentation, you will use “Record Narration” to record your presentation using a microphone. You will submit the PowerPoint presentation with voiceover to CourseNet for a grade. (Please discuss any special issues with your instructor if you are unable to complete any portion of this assignment).
You will be particularly assessed on:
Your completion of all the steps in the exercise.
Your ability to synthesize information and present a concise and meaningful PowerPoint and audio presentation.
The clarity and quality of your PowerPoint and audio presentations.
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