In today's uncertain and competitive work environment, organisations need communication leaders with a firm grip on all areas of business to drive strategic alignment.
The contemporary and future-focused communication leader influences up and across senior teams with impact; builds trusted relationships based on empathy and common goals; expands their emotional intelligence; and identifies opportunities for growth.
This type of communication leader is almost fanatically disciplined and deliberate in their approach. They possess the mindset, knowledge, and skills, to influence at the executive level, communicate with impact, and activate a thriving workplace culture.
The organisation then benefits through communication that is grounded in the business strategy, employees who understand the purpose, mission, vision, and priorities of the organisation, leaders who understand their role as communicators, and increased collaboration and alignment.
So, what does that look like in practice and how do we, as communication professionals lead with impact and purpose?
- Improve your emotional intelligence
Arguably, one of the most important skills for professional and personal performance, emotional intelligence is your most powerful asset. Contrary to popular belief, emotional intelligence, or EQ – i.e., how well you identify and manage your own emotions and react to the emotions of others – is not an innate skill. While there are some people who are naturally more proficient in certain competencies, emotional intelligence can be learned, developed, and enhanced.
Emotionally intelligent leaders have the capacity to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings. They listen well and consider other people’s feelings and circumstances before communicating or making decisions. Without this ability we lack sufficient flexibility and understanding of change, cannot work well with others and cannot relate well with our colleagues and team members.
- Develop trusted relationships
Leading with emotional intelligence fosters trust, and trust is critical in business. Your team members and stakeholders need to trust you as you communicate your vision and lead them through unprecedented change.
According to the 2022 European Communication Monitor, building and maintaining trust is the most important strategic issue for communication management until 2024. In their book, The Trusted Advisor, Maister, Green and Galford suggest we need to focus on four factors to develop trust – credibility (what we say), reliability (what we do), intimacy (how safe we make others feel), and self-orientation (where our focus lies).
In practice, that includes:
- Giving people the whole picture and being honest and transparent in your communication.
- Ensuring your words and actions match.
- Creating a safe space for people to discuss and debate issues and contribute to meaningful conversations.
- Demonstrating genuine care for others’ needs.
When it comes to leading people, I always come back to a Simon Sinek quote I absolutely love which is: “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” So how are you showing others that they come first?
When you have a trusted relationship with your stakeholders, you’re likely to spend much of your time listening, advising, and coaching. Don’t think of it as extra work – think of it as a golden opportunity to build trust, great relationships and demonstrate value. In this way, over time, you also build your stakeholders’ communication competence. What they get from you is a genuine and trusted business partner.
- Listen more than you talk
You can’t lead effectively if you don’t listen, and you certainly can’t engage if you aren’t listening for what’s going on in your team members’ hearts and minds. As the saying goes, ‘you have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk’. That’s easier said than done. But listening is critical to your role as a communication leader. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness and the effectiveness of your communication function. It also impacts on the quality of your relationships with others. By becoming a better listener, you can improve your productivity and your team’s productivity, as well as your ability to understand and influence others.
If you want to become a communication leader who thinks and leads strategically, generates innovative ideas, builds trust, and contributes to your organisation on a strategic and senior level, then get to work developing your communication leadership potential, so you can lead others and make an impact. The time is now.
About the Author
Sia Papageorgiou is a multi-award-winning strategic communication leader on a mission to elevate the value and visibility of communication professionals and help them become trusted, strategic, and in-demand advisors. She’s worked with some of the wo...