One Thing All Great Communicators Have In Common, And How To Master It
What separates a good leader from a great one? You need only look to history to find the answer: the world’s great leaders have also been the world’s great communicators.
Wherever you look, whether it’s toward political leaders like Winston Churchill, social leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, or business leaders like Steve Jobs, it is clear that communication is central to their success.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring different communication styles and how they’re employed by successful leaders.
However, the fact that these individuals were great communicators isn’t the most important factor they had in common. Instead, the most important trait that they shared was the fact that each embraced their personal communication style and used it to their advantage.
The best communicators (and therefore leaders) have a style unto themselves that flows naturally. For some, like Churchill and Obama, it comes in the form of public oration. For others, it’s long-form writing. Others still prefer the one-on-one chat that allows for deep personal connections.
Of course, you don’t need to be Winston Churchill to become a great communicator. It’s a skill that anyone can learn and apply in their lives.
Be true to yourself
The first (and most important) step in becoming a great communicator is to be true to yourself. People who try try to imitate the styles and successes of others are rarely successful. It simply comes across as unnatural and uncomfortable.
Self-awareness is, by far, the most important trait anyone can develop. A leader’s self-awareness demonstrates a deep commitment to honesty and a connection to reality itself. That connection is central to charisma, trust, and effective communication.
I always advise fellow entrepreneurs and leaders, to be honest with themselves. All of us want to be the charismatic orator, like President Obama, but the truth is that few can pull it off.
Instead, find the method that you’re most comfortable with. Perhaps it’s a conversation over an after-work cocktail, or maybe it’s as simple as sending an email. It doesn’t matter what form it takes; what matters is that you’re comfortable with the medium.
For me, the medium of choice has always been the written word. I find that I’m able to develop more thoughtful and coherent messages when I take the time to write them down. In fact, my posts here on Forbes are for the benefit of my team members just as much as they are for my readers.
Hone your skills
Of course, just because you’re comfortable with a particular communication medium doesn’t mean you’ve mastered it. That, like all other things in life, takes practice and dedication.
Winston Churchill, for example, is often seen as a naturally gifted orator. While he was undoubtedly a genius in many respects, his gifts of speech did not come naturally.
Instead, it’s said that he would practice his speeches in front of a mirror for hours on end, perfecting every word and every inflection.
I know that I’ve certainly had to put a lot of work into my writing for it to be considered passable. I carve out at least an hour to write every single day.
While the vast majority of what I develop never sees the light of day, it’s the process that counts. Repetition, feedback, and dedication are essential to the mastering any skill, whether it’s writing or public speaking.
Find the right platform
Once you’ve found your medium of choice and developed a plan to hone your skills, the final step is to find the right platform.
Let’s assume for a moment that oration is your preferred communication style. A traditional application of this style would be somewhat awkward in, for example, a modern office setting.
Fortunately, there are ways to adjust your preferences to your circumstances. For those individuals who lean toward speech-giving, developing a solid introductory pitch for meetings and other events is the most effective platform.
For people like me who like to write, connecting with a respected publisher like Forbes provides a global platform that lends credence to the content you develop.
When I write for the benefit of my team, for example, the fact that I’ve made my thoughts and feelings public ahead of time carries weight.
Discovering your style and honing your skills are only half the battle. The other half is a matter of finding how to apply the approaches you’ve developed in the real world.
In leadership, effective and inspiring communication is what separates the good from the great. The key is to play to your strengths, put forth the effort to develop your skills, and ultimately find the right platform for your message.