Far too often, we stereotype leaders as people who take action. Society forgets that true leadership does not solely revolve around doing, but also necessitates clear communication and connection. These latter components are what help to elevate someone who is a great worker into someone who transforms their entire environment.
Now, this is not to say that the concept of “leading by example” is dead- leaders naturally do this as they work their way into a more visible position within a firm; however, what happens when they actually become a CEO, President, or another valued member of the Executive Team? They communicate. They effectively motivate and delegate, putting the right people in the right place at the right time. Without connecting to peers and rallying internal support, even the most business savvy decisions will fail to be properly implemented.
Furthermore, leaders communicate a clear and elevating goal to their team. In 1961, discomfited by the Soviet Union’s success in space, John F. Kennedy announced to the world that the United States was going to be the first country to put a man on the moon and do it before the end of the decade. The reverberating effect of this message was felt immediately. After his address, President Kennedy toured NASA and stopped a janitor mid-visit to ask, “What’s your job at NASA?” The janitor replied, “It’s my job to help put a man on the moon.” Talk about the effect of words! All levels of leadership at NASA focused on directly tying each team member’s job to the overall goal. These people were not just collecting a paycheck, they were coming to work to make a difference.
Another commonly considered component of natural leadership is making the right decision, even in the face of adversity. Surely this decision constitutes “action”? You’re only half right. Consider this – your tough decision, whatever it may be, is usually more about sending a message than the actual decision itself. For example, firing a complacent employee and promoting an up-and-comer can prove motivational to the rest of the employees. This action implicitly communicates that hard work and performance will be rewarded. Again, this is merely one example of why actions must have a dedicated message behind them in order for a leader to take his/her company to another level.
Although this may all come across as common sense, most people still shun the notion that leading is about communication and connection. To the uninitiated, it sounds fluffy – not sexy, strong, or powerful. However, true communication skill and the power of connection take a different kind of strength. These leaders must have the courage to look in the mirror at times and make necessary yet unpopular changes. They must have the discipline to stand by their values. They must have the perseverance to ensure that their message is appropriately tailored for all individuals under their purview. This unique type of inner-strength is essential turning a great worker into a great leader.