Right communication approach is key to great leadership

By People Daily
Tuesday, June 15th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
President Uhuru attending Generation Unlimited (GenU) global leadership council meeting.

Paul Ekuru 

Leaders worth their salt are those who have learnt their place; their place in creating trusting followers and their role in improving the circumstances of the led. 

Leaders are judged not only on their own successes but also on the successes of those they lead.

A great leader therefore requires to be heard and to be understood, but most importantly, to listen and to understand. Thus, the right conversation becomes king.

Four types of conversations exist – a treasury that anyone seeking to effectively communicate must wisely choose from.

It doesn’t matter whether one is a political leader or an industry captain, a Sunday school teacher or a construction site foreman. 

The four conversation paradigms apply notwithstanding. These are: dialogue, discourse, debate and diatribe.

The first two approaches are more cooperative in nature while the last two are competitive.

Dialogue is best used when leaders seek to exchange ideas and build meaningful relationships.

It enables the followers to co-create and add their voice. Yet, when plain delivery of information is necessary, a discourse – which is obviously one way – becomes the tool to turn to. 

A debate on the other hand, though two-way in nature, seeks to primarily convince and win over the conversation. Debates can be located in the larger sphere of arguments.

Of great importance, a leader needs to be aware of the purpose of the argument being made. Is it to argue logically and plausibly to an open-minded audience? 

Rhetoricians will tell you that a classical argument would suffice. A claim backed by facts and evidence.

But classical arguments are for an audience that is willing to listen to a different point of view. How about an audience that is hostile to a different opinion? 

A Rogerian argument - named after psychologist Carl Rogers – wouldsave the day.

With this approach, leaders are able to extend their sympathy to their audience’s views while gradually leading them to their proposition.

 Instead of worrying about the reasons that would convince their audience to adopt their proposition, leaders ought to unpack what it is about their view that troubles and especially threatens the audience. Then they seek ways of reducing the threat.

Lastly, a diatribe is in many ways a manipulation of emotions - a competitive one-way conversation that seeks to express emotions. 

Diatribes have a way of browbeating those opposed to the leader’s view while inspiring those who already share his or her perspective; imagine a disgruntled politician venting about the election outcome. 

Once a leader has taken care of the right conversation approach, it is time to worry about basic communication mistakes that would ruin their reign.

Just because one is a leader is not  sufficient to make his or her audience listen. Why would the people listening care?

If a leader can answer that ahead of the planned communication, then the leader has an audience.

The audience has to see itself in the piece of communication, how the conversation affects their present and future human condition. 

Even better, the conversation has to be on their own terms. Without a human hook, if it is predominantly about you and not them, leaders forfeit their place to meaningfully address their audience.

Having a plan is great! Until a leader reads the room and finds new truths about the message that he or she prepared.

At such a point, a critical question to ask oneself would be; “Can I stand by this message come hell or high waters?” If there is even an iota of doubt, the message shouldn’t be delivered. 

It is sacrilegious – methinks - for a leader to speak about things they don’t know as if they do. Misinformation springs up and mistrust thrives.

It is equally worse for a leader to speak in glittering generalities. It’s ok not to know some things.

Even more ok to reference other people’s facts and statements. This goes a long way in building a leader’s credibility. 

In a nutshell, the right communication approach determines whether the message will be delivered, received, believed and actioned. Wrong choice of a conversation type and a leader has no audience. —The writer is a communications strategist — Story Credit /Email here

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