On Leadership Communication: Bad leaders are good teachers of hard lessons


leadership communicationMost of what I know about leadership communication, I’ve picked up over a couple decades of watching leaders—some of them my own—learn three essential lessons, over and over and over again.

1. A leader is a dealer in hope.

I didn’t say that. Napoleon said that. And FDR proved it. And Churchill proved it. And Ronald Reagan proved it.

Yet, so many bosses are dealers in anxiety. My first editor walked around the office all morning on every deadline day muttering, in a shaking falsetto accent, “I’m doomed.” A publisher I worked for wore a path in the office carpet checking and rechecking subscription orders, hour by hour. And I once had a boss who would warn us every quarter, “If we don’t get our numbers up this quarter, folks, the party’s over.”

First off, what party? Second, I realize the guy meant to candidly bring us into his reality; he really did believe our division would be shut down if we didn’t make our numbers. But he had no guidance for how we should go about bringing the numbers up. And he was the feckless over-promiser who set the budget in the first place!

Look, leading any organization is scary and difficult and lonely. But that burden must be born gracefully by the leader (who asked for it, after all).

Read the full column in Communication World.