Just as there are plenty of different leadership styles, there are just as many communication styles. But there are a few characteristics that you tend to see in top CEO communicators. These are the CEOs who we follow on Twitter, read their op-eds during our lunch break and maybe even pick up their books on the weekend. We trust these leaders. We’re enthused by their work and the direction of their company. To become a leader who can communicate in this way, it’s important to stand out from the crowd with these unique attributes.
Be real. The most inspirational leaders engage on a human-interest level. It’s important for your audience to trust you. Don’t lose them with scripted grandiosity. Use personal stories and be relatable.
Strive for an openness that draws the audience in. Knowing they’re not about to get the wool pulled over their eyes will keep an audience listening and engaged. Admit shortcomings and excite them with sneak peeks of the company’s next big idea.
How can CEOs do this while maintaining the respect and competitive advantage of their office and company? By maintaining a growth mindset. Leaders who admit setbacks and ask for input tend to be the best communicators and biggest innovators out there. See Apple’s swift response to artist royalties on streaming music.
Be available. Leaders shielded from the media can project distrustful personas to the public. Executives who engage with employees, customers and external stakeholders build a reputation that garners respect and appreciation, while also reaching a larger audience. This visibility can lend to authenticity, making for more dynamic communications and leadership.
Be thoughtful. CEOs stand apart by truly adding value to the conversation through their innovation and reputation for success. These leaders don’t give a keynote with their eyes down at the podium. These CEOs are the ones booking media briefings for open Q&A because they’ve thought through all the questions beforehand. When confronted with an unknown, the CEO is honest and curious about it. It takes a confident leader to ask for critical feedback, like Elon Musk did with his Hyperloop white paper. Establishing these connections builds a following that bolsters credibility.
If your CEO is giving a speech soon, you might consider incorporating some of the tenets of the TED Commandments throughout the speech writing and preparation process. You can see many of these core traits shine through their communications principles.
And, if you missed the blog on the best tools CEOs can use, be sure to check it out - Communications from the Top: How CEOs communicate.