Knowing how to communicate is knowing how to lead



We all know them. Leaders who escape when the organisation is hit by a crisis. Bosses who find it painfully uncomfortable to discuss personal matters. Experts who fear social media discussions. Decision-makers who rarely admit they are wrong.

Poor communications skills often equal to poor leadership. The modern public sphere does not let any leader off the hook. The society is going through a transformation where the ability to communicate can give you the competitive edge – and the lack of it may destroy everything you’ve built.

Communications has to be acknowledged as one of the most important skills for any leader. It has to be planned just as strategically as the key operations.

Easier said than done, but possible. You just have to know and interpret the phenomena of the public life and find your way through the wilderness. It takes courage and may even hurt. But it also pays off. Here is how you do it.

  1. Don’t try to sing your own praises or those of your organisation. On the contrary, recognise the imperfections and show them.
  2. Trust your expertise, reason and influence. Take a bold stand on important themes in your industry and the society in general.
  3. Don’t underestimate the significance of emotions. Recognise them in yourself and others. Respond to the power of emotions by analysing where they come from and what they cause.
  4. Communicate with facts and season with emotions. Not the other way around.
  5. Challenge yourself in the face of new technologies and channels. If you say no to something new, say an even bigger yes to trying it. You might surprise yourself.
  6. Continuously develop your relationship with the social media. Don’t abandon it even though you’re not active. If you’re passive, choose to do so, don’t drift toward inaction.
  7. Enhance interaction – both internal and external. Question, discuss, give feedback and receive it. Praise and inspire.
  8. Fall in love with justifiable critique. It loves you back and forces change. Answer it.
  9. Look for and come up with solutions to personal, organisational and societal challenges and tell about them. Tell about them again. And again.
  10. Take responsibility and cherish it. That impresses and attracts.

The text is based on the book “SORI – johtaja ja julkisuus kriisissä” (“SORRY – the leader and the publicity in crisis”), published in Finnish in October 2018.

Kolumni on julkaistu Haaga-Helian Global Signals -lehden numerossa 1/2019.