Do you think of yourself as a leader? Do you want to sound like a leader when you speak? What does that even mean?
A leader tries to guide and motivate others to take action and implement change. Of course, there are many ways of doing that, but it’s important to note that leadership doesn’t involve forcing people to act in a certain way. For that reason, as a leader you need to:
- Inspire and motivate people
- Guide them to work together
- Take responsibility for progress towards a goal
A lot of the work of leadership is done through speaking, both to individuals one-on-one and to groups.
Here are some guidelines for speaking like a leader.
1. Describe the need
In order to get others to buy into the need to change, you need to describe the need. What’s the problem with the status quo?
Because people are often comfortable with the current state of affairs, you may need to emphasize why change is needed — the consequences of not changing.
One of my clients hesitated to buck the old habits of his Fortune 500 employer even though the strategies weren’t working anymore. We worked together to come up with a presentation that presented both the data and the stories behind the data. The results was a change in how the employer worked with its partners and a promotion for my client!
2. Share your vision
People need to visualize what things could be like after a change. This inspires them to do the sometimes hard work of learning new procedures and unlearning old habits. When you speak, you need to share your vision of the new way, without sounding preachy or condescending.
What’s in it for them?
A client presented at a news conference to reporters and her goal was to convince them to include some scientific research in their articles. But she wanted to just describe the research and hesitated to include persuasive images and lay-person language that would win them over. I explained that she had to come out of her “scientist” persona and meet the reporters’ needs, which was to write a compelling article.
3. Show your confidence and knowledge
You must be prepared before you speak. You need to have done your homework and have arrived at a conclusion that you feel confident in. (Later, I’ll talk about the importance of listening and compromise, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t research and think about the situation in advance.)
An Accounting Department Manager gave presentations to C-level executives and they asked her to get presentation skills training. It turned out that she thought her role was just to provide statistics, whereas they were expecting her expert opinion. She needed to learn to include her judgment in her presentations.
4. Use plenty of examples–stories and case studies
Back up your research with examples–stories and case studies. Tell a story of how things went wrong last week. Share a case study from another company who made similar changes. Read online customer reviews that are hurting the company. Whatever the problem, examples will help your audience really feel the situation.
As a leader, you should have a plan — a blueprint for the way forward, but you also need to be willing to make adjustments to it. There are always points of view you didn’t think of, so ask for feedback and listen to it carefully.
In order to motivate people to change, you need to consider the needs of the people who are doing the changing. You may need to compromise to move forward and reach the goal.
6. Work collaboratively
Even as a leader, you need to work with people and participate in the change. People don’t want to see you as a taskmaster but as a leading partner. Once you’ve explained the problem, shared your vision, showed your confidence and knowledge, used examples, and listened to feedback, you need to take the first step. Then others will move with you and you can move mountains. Remember, a team is much more powerful and effective than one person working alone!
If you would like to speak as a leader, contact me so we can discuss training and consulting to meet your needs.
What characteristics do you think a speaker should have when trying to be a leader? What has worked for you? What hasn’t worked? Leave a comment and please share this article with others who want to lead.