Think Like a Leader: Styles, Techniques, and Tricks|
Young leaders seek to inspire change on a global level by addressing problems from a top-down, and bottom up approach. Now, more than ever, our leaders need to engage and collaborate at multiple levels to develop solutions for a new generation. Resources are becoming widely accessible thanks to technology and sectors are merging at an outstanding pace. Today our ability to influence as leaders requires an ability to communicate in simpler, more efficient ways, whether that be using 150 characters, or coming up with an entire new language based on hand gestures such as Occupy Wall Street.
What’s your style?
There is a wide range of leadership styles. Most leadership research suggests that the most effective leadership is a blend of vision and inspiration, also known as transformative or charismatic leadership. But there are many styles that you should be aware when developing your communication skills as a leader.
Autocratic-Leader makes most of the decisions, doesn’t listen well, keeps decisions to themselves until feels the need to share with the group. Communication is mostly one-sided as there is only one side to many of the discussions.
Participatory-Decisions are made based on consulting with entire team. Works well for motivating team and ensuring positive collaboration.
Laissez-Faire-Leader leaves group to itself, and allows maximum freedom to those involved in their team. This works poorly for emergency situations.
Narcisstic-Leader is driven by personal need for power and admiration.
Toxic-Leaders who abuse power by leaving group worse-off than when they first came.
Ask yourself questions that help direct your own understanding of how you communicate. Do you tend to use facts and rationalizations? Do you actively listen? Do you make decisions without telling anyone? Or are you do you employ emotional pleas to build a sense of purpose?
Ways to Strengthen Your Communication Skills as a Leader
1. Refine Your Personal Pitch
Everyone faces the question, “Tell me about yourself.” This is the Achilles Heel of every interview, elevator pitch, or straight networking because it sets the tone for everything beyond that point. It’s imperative to express to others why they should give a shit about you, and how you set yourself apart from others. How do you want to be remembered by this person? What message do you want to convey? A good exercise is writing down several pitches of who you are in a nutshell. This should include what you are about, what your style is, and your vision for the future.
Example: My name is Erin, I am good for morale. I am passionate about helping people, and dedicated to finding solutions for those without access to affordable healthcare.
2. Be Introspective
Not sure who you are? Begin the process by becoming more introspective. This has helped me immensely to know my strengths, weaknesses, and figure out areas of my personality that I need to pay more attention to in order to communicate more effectively with others. I have been journaling since the age of 12 to daily record how I am feeling, and draw patterns within my thoughts. Every few months I look over what I have written, and write down conclusions of how I think I am doing in comparison to personal goals I have set for myself. Having a point of reference is also a great way to develop metrics for your personal growth in this area.
3. Seek Outside Feedback
It’s easy to develop blind spots of who we are as leaders when you don’t seek feedback. Whether its mentorship, or specifically asking during your formal employee reviews, it’s critical to know how you come off to others, not just your boss. Suggest a 360 assessment that includes feedback from your entire team instead of just your boss.
Many companies also offer assistance and skills training to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are as an influencer. They range in price, but I recently took one from HRD press that was relatively affordable. These assessments help you tailor a customized plan based on your exhibited leadership traits and what qualities you show both at work and in personal situations.
What do these evaluations assess?
Most leaders possess a combination of the Big Five Personality Traits. These traits include: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. You will not always possess the same style of communication (depending on the type of situation you are dealing with) and it’s important to be aware of what traits work better than others in different scenarios.
These assessment tools were useful as I began dealing with more “emergency” situations. As someone who is generally a peacemaker, I find it difficult to communicate effectively when I need to be confrontational. I was able to look at examples of communication styles of influencers that have clear rules and structure, and adopt some of these strategies when I am required to step outside my core strengths of collaborating and harmonizing and am forced to play a more authoritarian role.
4. Practice & Play
Have you ever seen someone speak and walked away totally wowed? Have you thought about the hours of practice that went into that’s persons talent? Although some people may be naturally gifted at communicating as a leader, your skills can always be refined with more practice. Try stepping out of your comfort zone, whether that be joining a Toastmasters International group, or looking for options to speak to groups ranging in size. Some people may be great at speaking to large groups, and terrible one on one (or vice versa). If there is an topic you are comfortable with, look for opportunities to engage with different sizes of audiences. Try teaching a class through one of the many platforms: Communiteach, Dabble, or Skillshare.
Another tactic I have used myself is what I like to call the “test” interview. If you are considering changing jobs, or testing your influence style, try seeking interviews so you are more prepared for the job you really want. Nothing is worse than going for your dream job, and realizing in the midst of an interview you have gotten incredibly lackluster in how you speak about yourself, and communicate what you are looking for to others. It’s better to go on a few test interviews and you will be much more comfortable when a real one comes. Make sure to ask for direct feedback from the person interviewing you.
5. Be generous
No one likes insincerity. Make sure that if you are reaching out and putting effort into speaking with someone, that you speak at their level. Paying attention to who you are speaking with and tailoring your message at an individual level shows you care. If you have a poor memory, make sure you take notes to remember how the person interacts with you. Try this with everyone in your path whether that be your barista, cleaning lady, or CEO. It is a great indicator of how you interact with others, and leaves a person feeling positive.
Some of these common tactics are the easiest to forget in our daily lives. It can be exhausting to constantly put so much effort into how we speak with others. But it is easy to get lost in evaluating ourselves, and thinking it is all about us. It is never about you, it is about who you are speaking with. No one wants to be the person spoken at, they want to be spoken to.
When in doubt, speak from your heart. It is the best guide you have as a leader.