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Communicating with Power


Get Out from Behind the Lectern

Leaders who are effective presenters do not use a lectern, a barrier that separates the leader from the audience. They have no need for lecterns because they do not read from a written text. They understand that presentations that are read are considered old news and, as such, detract from the spontaneity that creates energy in the audience. Doing without visuals can be a particularly effective when the presentation is intended to inspire the audience rather than convey information.

Effective leaders showcase their passion by putting their whole body into the presentation. They support every statement with an appropriate gesture and make large body movements to underscore important points. They further accentuate these points with dramatic pauses or by raising or lowering their voice. Their choice of language demonstrates they are real because they avoid euphemisms, jargon and office-speak.

Though the presentation may appear spontaneous, it has been carefully rehearsed. Extraneous content has been put aside. Questions that may be asked have been identified and succinct, persuasive answers have been prepared. As noted earlier, though an initial presentation like this may require serious rehearsing, the process becomes easier as the leader seeks out opportunities to continue presenting. A seasoned speaker who gets a deep sense of pleasure from presenting can become encouraged to present his views about significant issues on the national stage. This further helps cement leadership positioning.

Knowing Oneself and the Organization

The “leadership on parade” process must begin with honest assessments by the leader of how the workforce perceives him and how he in turn views the employees. Mistaken impressions can hinder communication and, with that, the leader’s effectiveness.

A leader may misunderstand the workforce's values, particularly if he is new. He may have come from a company whose employees value making lots of money but his new culture emphasizes a concept like "do no evil." Judgments from trusted direct reports will be needed because even a small change that runs counter to the culture can have large repercussions.

The workforce may not have a good understanding of the leader either. The leader may have served for many years but has not been very visible. Unknowingly, the leader may be sending out contrary signals. Is the leader shirt-sleeved or double-breasted? Occupying a walnut-paneled corner office or at the center of the floor? Each is making a values statement. With these and other choices, leaders must project their true selves.

This is not a call for the leader to improve his "image.” Image is artifice. For honest, leadership noweffective communication there must be authenticity.

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