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Communication and Charisma for Leadership

Effective communication is essential for effective leadership

By Lisa Chau
Published: Aug 27, 2012

As Tuck School of Business corporate communication professor Paul Argenti states, “You can’t be a great leader if you’re not a great communicator.  You can’t execute it if you can’t communicate it.  It’s that simple.”

In hindsight, I am thankful that my high school, Hunter included mandatory communications classes in the curriculum.  After watching countless presentations in school and the corporate world, it is abundantly clear that eloquence in text and speech is a tremendous asset in guiding others towards understanding your perspective and persuading them to follow your lead. 

A good idea is that much better when conveyed effectively.  

On the most basic level: Know your material, enunciate and maintain eye contact.  Present your thoughts in an organized structure so they are understood easily.  Avoid fillers such as “umm”, “uhh” and “like”.  

Use pauses instead.  You will sound more authoritative and mindful.  

Simply removing fillers and adding thoughtful pauses in speeches will immediately improve any presentation.  This is especially true in the age of globalization.  The pause offers non-native speakers of your language an additional moment to absorb what you have just said.  Furthermore, in this age of diminished attention span, everyone gets a chance to recalibrate their focus back to the topic of discussion.

Note that the pause is more easily embraced in theory than practice.  Many people dread public speaking, and the associated anxiety typically manifests itself by speeding up the rate of speech with near complete disregard for breaks.  Appropriate pauses become magnified awkward silences in the mind of the nervous presenter.  

Practice the pause.  

Add charisma.

A strategic leader knows that she must not only be able to explain a shared vision, but also inspire.  Charismatic managers use credibility, trust and influence to motivate teams toward common goals.

Charisma is about engagement.  It is about persuading others to want to act towards a collective mission, saying, in effect, “This is our objective and we’re in this together.”

Connect with your audience using stories or metaphors they are able to relate to in their own lives.  Don’t use an example about the challenges of international business travel when addressing a group of adolescents who have never even left their zip code.  Do use anecdotes that most will be able to understand, like how it seems that you always pick the slowest moving line at the supermarket.

Find the best ways to help your audience understand your message and remember it.  Engage them through stories and relevant examples.

But don’t overwhelm.

As a Harvard Business Review Management Tip advises, Use Three-Part Lists to Communicate (http://hbr.org/tip?date=061912) key takeaways.  Three is a manageable number of thoughts for people to remember, and it is a number persuasive enough to provide proof.

At the beginning of this article, I stated three fundamental rules:

1.      Know your material

a.       Be passionate.  If the material doesn’t excite you, it won’t excite your audience.

b.      Practice, practice, practice.

c.       Be prepared for questions.



2.      Enunciate


a.       Speak clearly and with authority.

b.      Remove fillers .

c.       Use pauses.



3.      Maintain eye contact

a.       Look people directly in the eyes.

b.      Remember to speak to everyone in the room, not just those in front of you.

c.       Don’t forget to blink.



Then, I structured the rest of my article to follow with three more advanced strategies:

1.      Add charisma

a.       Engage via stories and examples.

b.      Motivate towards common goals by credibility, trust and influence.

c.       Persuade others to want to act towards a collective mission.



2.      Use Three-Part Lists to Communicate

a.       Don’t lose your audience’s ability to focus by overwhelming them with too many details.

b.      Manage key takeaways.

c.       Lead by example, obviously.


3.      Leverage rhetoric and repetition (Not previously discussed)

a.       Rhetorical questions involves audiences by making them think.

b.      Repeating important points emphasizes key ideas.

c.       Consider repeating rhetorical questions.  “Given the situation, wouldn’t you have made the same decisions?”  

With practice and dedication, these strategies can be mastered to become invaluable skills.  Great leaders never underestimate the power of effective communication.  

Lisa has been involved with Web 2.0 since graduate school at Dartmouth College, where she completed an independent study on blogging. She was subsequently highlighted as a woman blogger in Wellesley Magazine, published by her alma mater. Since 2009, Lisa has worked as an Assistant Director at the Tuck School of Business.

[This article republished with permission from the author and the Tuck School of Business.]

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