You can’t pick up a leadership book or piece of engagement research without someone telling you how fundamentally important ‘being a great communicator’ is in a leader’s skillset. And let’s face it, it’s not an assertion that many are going to argue with.
Very few of the leaders I come across would categorise themselves as ‘great’ communicators (even with their modesty filter removed). Most would say they’re a work in progress, and a few would cite themselves as remedial. For those who want to improve their communication style (and perhaps even become great), it’s good to know the starting point. While there are bucket loads of different communication styles, here are four of the most common ones I come across:
And then we have the Navigators. Those people who seem to be able to effortlessly make the complex a bit more digestible, interesting even. And they seem to be clear about both what they want to say and what they want from you, and why it matters, and what you can expect in return.
So can a Jargonista or a Transactor become a Navigator? Is this a learnable skill or is it something you either just have or you don’t?
As with most things in life, if someone’s making something look easy that many people struggle with, they’ve probably been putting in the hours in behind the scenes. They may have picked up hints and tips from their favourite leaders along the pathway of their career, and who knows, perhaps they’ve even had some coaching.
For those who have not been so lucky, here are three fundamental ‘make its’ to keep in mind if you are an aspiring Navigator:
Take a look at most of the studies that explore the traits of successful leaders, and you’ll see communication is usually close to the top. In a study by the Leadership Council in late 2015, it came out as THE critical skill. We’ve all been witness to the talented executive who struggles to make it to the next level, held back by their abilities to inspire and influence on a grand scale.
I like the idea that developing the next generation of leaders falls as much to the current generation as it does the Learning and Development team. Without a culture where emerging leadership is truly valued and nurtured, it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the leadership development programme is, without the foundation of a strong leadership culture firmly in place, it’s not going to have the desired effect.