Fascinating! I find it absolutely fascinating that conferences and summits and institutes and seminars on leadership and leadership development boast agendas chock full of topics, except for the one that matters most … communicating effectively. Wow, really?

Can a leader really lead without communicating effectively? Can a leader succeed on these topics alone: managing tight budgets for profitability, maximization of social media, cutting edge HR programs, understanding corporate social responsibility, or fostering a culture that’s comfortable with change? Um, I don’t think so …

My own obvious bias notwithstanding, you could argue that true leadership is almost exclusively about communicating effectively, and success is almost exclusively dependent on the ability to communicate effectively. Think about it. No one succeeds alone. No one leads alone. “Leadership” implies the involvement of, and need for, other people. And how does one lead other people? Through budgets? Through HR policies and programs? Through Facebook? No. Those are management issues and tools. Leadership is different. One leads other people by engaging, connecting, inspiring, persuading, informing, motivating … all communications tasks.

Successful leaders are people who communicate with a steady, dependable “voice” … a voice that’s clear, open, appreciative, and affirming. The true work of a leader is to be able to find his/her voice, the exact style and tone, and then stick to it. The trickiest part is to remain clear, open, appreciative, and affirming even when times are tense and the message is difficult. This is absolutely the distinguishing characteristic for leadership, though; it’s how one engages, connects, inspires, persuades, informs, motivates, etc. even under duress.

I am not suggesting that managing can be done by a trained monkey and that leadership is for the elite few. Not at all. In fact, managing well also requires the effective communications skills of a leader. What I am suggesting, though, is that, in one way or another, we are all leaders or in leadership positions. And so the single most important skill we can develop is good communications skills, beginning with a clear, open, appreciative, and affirming voice. And then the finer points will come with time … or with reading this blog!

Beth Levine