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#HowILead – Communication is a cornerstone of good leadership

comm is the real work of leadership

I’ve enjoyed following the LinkedIn #HowILead discussion recently. It’s a great idea, kudos to LinkedIn for leading (bad pun intended) the discussion.

Here are some of my own ideas about how communication is critical for effective business leadership, which I’ve seen at work throughout my career:

Open and transparent communication. Good leaders help everyone understand the “why” in a given project, initiative or vision. When everyone in an organization understands the why, they are more engaged and better prepared to commit their energy to the priorities.

Human beings crave information, and not just because we live in the Information Age; it’s our nature to want to know. Good leaders not only recognize that but they make it a point of their communication. One of the best quotes I read in the LinkedIn series was from Marilyn Hewson, chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin: “Even when not all the answers are clear, the best leaders are always willing to engage. They foster trust by staying visible, sharing information, and keeping people up-to-date on the critical developments affecting their lives.”

Participation. Good leaders I’ve seen and worked with are involved in planning, execution and evaluation. This improves buy-in with employees, because what sends a stronger message about the value of participation than to have the boss right there with you pitching in? It emphasizes the importance of “owning” what you produce as an employee – or executive. When you feel the pride of ownership, the quality of your work improves, and that’s good for your business whether you’re in the mail room or the boardroom.

The popular TV show Undercover Boss” shows how valuable this firsthand experience is for leaders. By going undercover to work front line jobs, the leader sees an unfiltered view of what happens in the business every day and a clear pulse of employees.

Stretching skills. Great leaders have a knack for getting the best out of their teams. They invite their team members to take on responsibilities that are not part of their typical job description. The benefits of this approach are many: it uncovers skills and talents that maybe aren’t obvious, it brings professional development beyond the “prescribed” career path, and it encourages employees to self-manage their career growth.

For all three characteristics, communication and the ability to engage other people is important. No matter how you express it, leadership effectiveness really comes down to these two elements.

My company, INXPO, is a great enabler of communication and engagement. Our enterprise video communication solutions facilitate effective leadership for many of the world’s largest and most admired companies. Is it a coincidence that those companies have high levels of employee engagement – and strong leaders who are good communicators?

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