Message and Connection

Leaders can be effective in fundamentally two ways, through their “messaging” to the organization and/or via their connection with employees. Some are good at one of these skills, some the other, and a very small minority at both. A leader ought to understand his/her own skill sets in this area and attempt to maximize that area in which he or she might excel. That being said, a leader by necessity has to do some of both in order to be effective.

One who leads through connection with others is successful because employees will “follow that individual up the hill.” They will engage in behavior simply because it is what the leader wants; they don’t want to let the leader down. On the other hand, one who leads through the message gains followership by having employees feel that if they follow the direction, they and the organization will be successful. They have a strong belief that it is the “right” direction.

But how does one develop these skills? Most of us have a portion of these characteristics from our genetics. some people just have a natural charisma and a way with words. Others are more sensitive to the individuals around them, have a high degree of Emotional Intelligence, and display an empathy and understanding of others naturally. However, we can learn to be better at both.

For example, one can develop connection or followership by making contact with employees at all levels, managing by walking around (“MBWA”), stopping in and asking what someone is working on and how is it going, what challenges are they facing, what he/sh likes and does not like about the job, what input would they like to give that, perhaps, they haven’t had a chance to, what would they like the next position to be – making eye contact and listening to the answers. If comfortable, asking about one’s spouse and kids (and then making a note of it so as to not forget). I remember one executive, on going to a company site, would have a list of all the employees’ names and previously asked family information. He would then stop by as many offices as he could to make small talk about the family.

Charisma may be primarily an innate characteristic, but one can “up one’s messaging” by thinking of the impact one would want to make and creating talking points for the desired result, practicing the positions taken on close colleagues willing to give candid feedback. One can record and watch the video, practicing a number of times where the messaging becomes virtually automatic. experimenting with humor, raising and lowering one’s voice, techniques that can be helped by a drama coach if necessary. We cannot change personality, but we can change behavior.