If “trust is the bedrock of leadership”, as Sir Terry Leahy suggests in Management in 10 Words, then communication is the fundamental element from which trust is built. Toyota, faced with an unprecedented series of technical problems and disintegrating levels of trust, acted to communicate swiftly and transparently, recalled cars without quibble, and quickly restored both trust and its bottom line.
Corporate reputation depends on trust and it is through clear authentic communication that trust is established and maintained. So it is a key function of senior leaders to communicate effectively and to establish a culture of good communication in their organizations.
“Great leaders communicate tirelessly and it is their skill at listening and talking” that both inspires us and keeps us “passionately connected to their vision” in good times and bad, says Kevin Murray in The Language of Leaders.
With his 40 years' experience as a leading exponent of good corporate communications Murray, Chairman of the Good Relations Group, is better placed than any to explain the language leaders need to communicate powerfully. This second edition of his important book is based on his unique access to some of the business world’s most prominent leaders. Interviews with 70 chairmen, senior partners, CEO, generals and public sector chiefs provide invaluable insights to how leaders operate in an increasingly complex and transparent world and how clear and honest communication can inspire, facilitate innovation and change, and hold organizations together in times of crisis.
The book opens with the story of the battle of Jena and how Napoleon (sadly not interviewed here in person) defeated the mighty Prussian army by creating ‘leaders everywhere’; leaders that in the ‘fog-of-war’ could take their own independent decisions so long as they understood the senior leader’s intent and the mission’s ultimate objective. Napoleon’s genius was to understand that ‘command and control’, passing orders down the line, was not enough, and that communicating a ‘vision’ was the key to great leadership.
Moving from 1806 to modern times, but still bearing the ‘vision thing’ in mind (Napoleon’s not Bush’s), the book takes us through three key stages. First it explains why a leader needs to be a better communicator if he or she wants to succeed; secondly it looks at the foundations for creating a leadership language, such as: having confidence in your own strengths, building trust, building relationships, engaging through conversations; and thirdly it examines the skills and techniques needed to communicate effectively both inside and outside the organization: audience centricity, listening for solutions, finding a point of view, the power of stories, the importance of body language and symbolic acts, ensuring right preparation, etc.
The Language of Leaders is a ‘must read’ for anyone in a leadership position or with aspirations to lead. And, echoing the Napoleonic axiom ‘leaders everywhere’, a book of real value to managers at all levels. As the author says it may not hold all of the answers but it will focus readers on the key areas they need to think about and develop to become fluent in the language of leaders – a language that is indispensable to any leader in today’s increasingly fast moving, complex and transparent world.
The Language of Leaders, Kevin Murray, 2nd Edition, 2013, is published by Kogan Page, ISBN: 978-0-7494-6812-5