(post by Andrew Thorp)
This is the second post in a 3-part series examining what I mean by ‘inside-out’ business, and why it matters. My belief is we need to move away from using shallow, transactional language and go deeper, engaging with people on an emotional level. This section examines communication by leaders.
How great leaders connect and influence
A lot of leaders feel they have to appear strong and fault-free to maintain their authority. They erect a shield between them and their audience, revealing little of themselves and communicating through cold corporate-speak. The result is a shallow connection with their audience and minimal impact as a leader.
True leaders (like Melinda Gates, left) ‘let their audience in’ when they speak. They talk plainly and from the heart about the mistakes they made, how it made them feel and the valuable lessons that were learned. They bring their topic to life, drawing from their personal story vault. They communicate from the inside, personalising their message in a way that humanises them and gains the empathy and trust of their audience.
Watch this wonderful clip from Dr Brene Brown . She spoke at the TEDx conference about her experiences as a researcher, investigating the concept of ‘connected-ness’ and belonging. What she discovered about the power of vulnerability tells us much, I think, about how leaders connect with, and influence others.
We recently chaired a round-table discussion in Whitehall last year on employee engagement and ‘finding your organisational mojo’. We met a senior manager (a relatively young man) who was having difficulty connecting with his team. We started exploring personal values and beliefs and he shared with the group the fact that his strong sense of fairness and justice stemmed from his own experience of dealing with dyslexia. In the workplace, he’d always tried to mask his condition, fearful that, as a leader, it might be exploited as a weakness and used against him. He got great support from our group, and a few days later he decided to share his personal story with his team. The outcome was astonishing; people he’d barely spoken to before shared with him their own stories of discrimination and the connection was deep and powerful.
By being open, true leaders find their audience mirroring their openness and becoming receptive to their ideas. There’s a greater vulnerability involved, and it’s got to be handled carefully, but if done well the results can be remarkable.