Speaking Like A Leader
Many people would like to develop the skills necessary to become a leader in certain domains of their life. Especially in the professional world, leaderships skills can help you work toward a promotion or just to develop in your own current roles, creating more of an impact in your current job. You will see through this article, that the major theme of speaking like a leader is creating a balance in every situation. Leadership can seem full of conflicting styles and approaches; however, with the right balance of communication skills, a leader can develop a cohesive team of people to accomplish each goal. A leader conveys confidence, without cockiness; provides support while also challenging; knows when to confront and when to lay low; decides when to directly state or indirectly suggest; evoke change while also maintaining a safety net of stability.
Speaking like a leader will involve some self work and development of self awareness. The need for improved self awareness is key because a vital component to speaking like a leader is exuding a quality of genuine confidence. However, the specific term is approachable confidence. This is defined as an air of confidence that lets others believe in you as a person, and put stock in what you say; however it also allows for others to feel as though they can bring up their own ideas and beliefs without thinking you will shut them down. In other words, they feel they can approach you as their leader. This is vital to leadership. Since a major goal of any leader is to create new pathways and evoke levels of positive transformation in people and the organization as a whole.
Approachable confidence will involves certain communication sub skills, one of which is the use of questioning to facilitate conversation. Leaders are often thought of as commanding certain tasks or dictating what to do next. However, the most impactful leaders use the skill of facilitation to empower those they lead. Empowerment is evoked by relating to others through questioning and active listening skills. Getting to know the people who work under you as people first. Discover what their strengths are, and open up the discussion to hear their own ideas and thoughts on a topic. This will create a sense of a team effort, as opposed to a hierarchical structure in which what you say goes. The most important goal of speaking like a leader should be to convey to other that you care about who they are first.
Once people feel that you, as their leader, care about them, a sense of trust in the leader is developed. Trust is vital to any person leading a project or organization. Without trust, no person will feel able to accomplish any goals. However, trust should not just be facilitated between the leader and each individual, but between the entire team. In communicating to the team that they can trust one another, the leader must facilitate this process. Organize meetings that are just for team building. Encourage discussion amongst the team members about one another's lives and what is important to them. The key as the leader is to also make those you are leading care about each member of the team. This will be very important as you progress through projects and encounter possible future conflicts (which is discussed later on). As a leader, facilitating discussion on trust and team building should not be overlooked. Think of your team or organization as a community. Creating this trust between you as the leader, each team member, and the overall organization will set a foundation for the use of other communication skills that will further enhance your leadership qualities and truly set the tone for the entire operation of any project or organization.
In speaking like a leader, you will want to convey support, but also have the goal of helping those you lead reach their potential. Reaching higher potentials involves growth, which involves some discomfort. So it is important to learn when to use your words to support or to facilitate such growth. One skill to conveying support is providing affective responses. Affect means the display of emotions. A person may be sending off vibes of certain emotions, and as the leader it is important for you to pick up on those emotions and respond in a manner that provides support but also maintains the productivity you need in leading a team. A proper affective response validates the display of an emotion, since ignoring emotion will lead a person to feel uncared for and can damage the trust you created in the first place. One strategy is to simply acknowledge the person's affect. For example, "John, I notice you seem a little down today, let me know if you need anything." This statement validates that you notice and care about this person's display of emotion, but it does not pry into any details that may be personal. However it does leave a window of opportunity for you to provide support. As a leader in many situation, though, you are responsible for keeping the ball rolling. So in providing validation and affective responses to your team, you also know you need to be productive and keep everyone moving in a certain direction. So if a certain team member is seeming to be displaying more intense emotions for a longer period of time, there may be a time you need to intervene in a more challenging way. Remember, however, the goal is to prevent it getting to this point. So through the use of your earlier affective responses and validation in providing a window of support, it is the goal that you would help your team member get through any emotions that may disrupt work or progress. If in the event, the team member continues to display certain emotions that may be impacting their contributions to the team. As a leader, you must challenge this individual to develop a resolution. The best approach is to request a one on one longer meeting with the individual. Hopefully the individual still trusts that you, as the leader, have his or her best interest in mind. So this meeting should be structured to discuss your observation. As a leader, it is helpful to take daily observations of such events. This way in the meeting you have concrete examples to discuss with the person. Then develop a plan to resolve what may be evoking emotion in the person or put in place strategies to help the person better handle such emotions so that they can still remain focused and productive in his or her role.
As a leader, you have a great deal of experience in what you are leading. However, this does not mean you have encountered every possible unique situation. Therefore, another key tip in speaking like a leader is to not assume to know everything. It is okay as a leader to ask a question to another person, this shows you are human and increases that approachability. However, it is a fine balance between asking questions to avoid assumptions, but also demonstrating you have experience and knowledge to lead these people. The balance can be struck by relying on your confidence in the self work you have done. While at home, practice short 30 second to 1 minute presentations of past experiences you have been through. Talk out loud so that you are able to create a concise yet genuine example of what you have done in the past and how this is going to impact the current situation or project. Yes, you should feel proud of times you may have had great outcomes that led to your ability to now lead; however remember why you are sharing your experience. What is the goal of you telling your team this experience or past approach to a situation? Do not make it about yourself, but rather use language that talks about the actual experience. As you share these past experiences, the key is to not use too many "I" statements. Instead, it is most likely the past experiences involved other people, so use "we" statements. "We" statements make everyone feel included and also take the spotlight off yourself. Instead of, "After this issue came up, I went through our data and developed a different model to X." Replace "I" with "we." Even if you drove that idea in the past, that is not the point of you sharing this experience. The point it to foster a team effort in creating an idea or plan for a current situation, in which you sharing this past experience might inform that plan.
Furthermore, in remembering to avoid assumptions, whenever you share your knowledge and experience as a way to help develop current plans with your team, finish any presentation with opening up for a forum of discussion. Also if you don't know a fact, do not assume or generalize. Ask a team member who may know, this empowers your team and also helps you as the leader avoid leading your team down the wrong path. Along those lines in preparing yourself to avoid the trap of assuming, do your homework. If you are leading a group of people, you should have some higher knowledge or expertise, but that does not mean you know it all. So for any given presentation or meeting, prepare prior to the meeting. Your preparations can go a long way, people will notice when you are unprepared. In fact, your body will respond even if you think you are covering it up well. For instance, your heart rate will be faster than if you had prepared more, you might sweat more, or use more "um's" or "uh's." All of these will signal to those you lead, that you are not prepared. Such anxiety and unsureness can trigger the same emotions in your team. So even a little preparation can go a long way to avoid assumptions, but also avoid triggering a mass sense of confusion or unsureness.
As a leader you will need to develop skills of conflict resolution or mediation. You will have people you are working with that may not get along due to personality, or disagree on approaches to implement for a certain project. This is a normal part of personal and professional life. In speaking like a leader to handle conflict, you must firstly not take sides. You may agree more, professionally, with one person over another. However, it is important in acting as a leader to not ignore or discount what another person is saying. Give each side time to discuss what their points are and the rationale for their idea or plan. One helpful way to work with conflict resolution in a business setting is to establish ground rules in a whole group. As the leader you have the position to convey what the "group norms" will be. This does not mean you decide these group norms, rather you facilitate a process in which each member of your team or group brainstorm group norms and together establish the most appropriate norms for the purpose of your project or reasons for being a group. If you are able to establish these norms prior to the onset of a project or time period in which you will be leading a group of people, it can help establish ways to handle conflict or disagreement. As a leader, you want to balance your support of each party involved in the conflict. It is very much like counseling two people, in the sense that you are wanting to allow people to express their thoughts without putting down the other person, as well as getting working to minimize any defensiveness. Establishing the group norms will help with this process. One area you should command your own authority is by laying a foundation of respect. This is key to any group, and as a leader it is your job to maintain constant expression of respect. As you are working with conflict, another helpful tip is to use the objective as your guiding source. If you are feel each party is getting lost in emotion or defensiveness, have each person state the objective of the project or plan again. This can help re-ground each person, and allows them to remember they do have a common goal. It is just the approach that is different. Emphasize the common goal and work with each side to highlight the strength of their own approaches. By focusing on strengths, it allows each party to begin to see the other person's perspective, and also can lead the entire conflict to a compromise.