Why self-aware leaders make the best communicators

leadership self-aware communication

Join host Sheelagh Caygill as she explores the obvious - and less obvious - trends and influences in communications, PR, and marketing. Also explored are writing and upping your game as a creator of prose. In this essential listen, she interviews senior comms pros and thought leaders to reveal insights you can incorporate into your work.

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What exactly is communication?

It’s hard to believe that not every leader is a good communicator.

Our guest Nick Meir explains that this is because we think of communication as mostly spoken. But in Nick’s view, communication is essentially the “movement of information” and so body language and micro-expressions are part of that movement of information.

With this definition, it’s easy to see how a leader’s body language can impact a workplace culture and even subjugate people.

Employees automatically fill in an information vacuum

Leaders have to be aware of their blind spots and micro-expressions. Employees will notice everything about a leader, because they are always looking for information. And if there is an absence of information or a vacuum, employees will fill in the gaps.

“Leadership is about great communication, that movement of information, and so it always has to be positive,” explains Nick. “That doesn’t mean it always has to be good news, but it should be a positive exchange, regardless of the message.”

Nick explains that this is partly due to the way the brain is wired. Humans are wired to detect subtle clues, especially from first impressions.

The second important takeaway from this episode is that leaders must be aware of their audience. Everyone who has achieved success in the world has understood their audience, what makes them tick, and how to engage them. That’s what successful businesses and leaders do as well. They then talk about what their audience cares about.

Why should my audience care?

Nick believes leaders should always ask themselves “Why should they care?” before they speak, and if they can answer that question, they will be successful. As well, be who you are, be yourself, and be pragmatic, be honest and be open.

Leaders who are autocratic tend to create a culture of fear. So becoming self-aware is a process that leaders have to want to be. If leaders put on a persona when they arrive in the office, or behave differently in different situations, then employees will detect this.

Fear creates a culture of blame

Blame culture is one of the worst manifestations of a dysfunctional workplace culture. “When you see hundreds of people being copied in on an email, you know that there is a real problem of fear and blame in that work environment.”

Being a leader is a very lonely job, Nick adds. There are only a few people who a leader will trust, and that’s just part of the job. So in that sense there is a distance between the leader and their team.

Communication is all about sitting back and relaxing, and delivering information in your way, in your words, and in your style.

Good leaders also have to be great listeners, because again, listening is communication as it is moving information from one place to another. Bill Clinton is a memorable example of great listening, because people always remember how attentive he was when he listened.

If comms people try to map a leadership style onto a leader, it often doesn’t work. Leaders have to establish their own voice.

Leadership coach Nick Meir

Nick moved from being a journalist at the BBC into communications. He held various roles before launching his own agency, A House Called Alice, based in London, UK. Nick delivers executive coaching, training, and corporate journalism for several high-profile global clients.

You can find Nick on LinkedIn.

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