Needless to say we live in noisy times with massive amounts of information readily available to employees and customers alike. In such an environ it is imperative that business leaders find their voice and become authentically engaged with those they wish to influence or they will be drowned out. If leaders expect to be heard they cannot simply rely on their titles or positions – which are typically discounted anyway by all but the uninitiated. Whereas in bygone days stakeholders might be impressed or intimidated by such trappings they are now wondering out loud: “What are you bringing to the table here and now that is worthy of my attention?” And if that cannot be answered clearly and concisely they will quickly move on to something else. This state of edgy impatience bordering on rudeness by yesteryear’s standards is now the accepted norm and has raised the bar for leaders. In such a fast paced fluid atmosphere there are specific practices leaders can employ to rise above the din and be a voice that people value and appreciate.
Knowing and deeply understanding the context of a given situation is vital to maximizing one’s influence. Management merely by maths is a fool’s errand. The human element must be taken into account and it is this factor that typically is underestimated in favour of formulas and bean counting. Speaking the “language” of those you wish to influence is essential to your effectiveness. The business narrative is not merely about drab utility. Since it involves human beings there will always be an unavoidable natural drama and colorfulness to the whole affair which produces a certain culture. Influence comes from the ability to contextualize yourself into the culture and become a part of it.
It is a common notion that creativity is the exclusive province of the creatives in any company. While some have a natural propensity and training in doing what is normally considered creative work this does not eliminate the need for it outside such restrictive confines. In order to stand out leadership requires creativity. Tap your inner source of creative energy and find ways to apply it to the various challenges you face as you endeavour to inspire and lead others.
Having something substantial to offer is absolutely essential to being heard. Much of the content being done these days is superficial, trite and non-consequential corporate-speak – which is why it is noise. The distinct advantage goes to those who take the time to develop comprehensive and coherent content that adds meaning and significance to those they wish to influence.
Technology provides the tools to increase the speed and quantity of information flow but without substantive content the humanity side of it becomes shallow.
Curation is increasingly becoming a necessity because of the volumes of data flooding our lives from every quarter. Carefully selecting what information is critical enough to add to your knowledge base and include in the content you convey to others will help you become a voice of quality instead of quantity. Thus you will move up in the having-something-worth–paying-attention-to hierarchy that is the new corporate structure.
To communicate clearly and effectively is a highly nuanced skill that is coveted by all those who wish to be more than just another humdrum voice out there. There is no use developing curated content and intimately learning the context in which it is to be delivered if one cannot communicate it powerfully to those who need it.
This requires persistent disciplined practice. Never allow yourself to become just another run-of-the-mill leader conducting boring meetings with people nodding agreement to humour you instead of being inspired by your vitality and impressed by your ability to articulate your thoughts. In doing so I suggest using anecdotes that relate to their context. They will remember the stories long after the facts and figures have become a distant memory.
Of course the most impressive voice of all is the wordless eloquence of actions. Be a positive example of whatever you expect of others or your words will eventually fall on deaf ears. Hypocrisy erodes credibility.
Being a leader with a voice that is actually heard is not easy in these noisy times. But those who make the effort will find their stature increase as others begin to appreciate and value their wise insights and counsel.
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