Marianne Gobeil is the CEO and founder of Leading Communicators. A recognized expert in the area of strategic leadership communications, Marianne is a trusted adviser to executive leaders — so devoted to helping them advance their leadership goals and objectives that she formed a company around it.
I was watching the film “The King’s Speech” again the other day, and it struck me that executive leaders today have a lot in common with King George VI. Not because they both stutter – although some certainly do, at least strategically. But because each faced a cosmic shift when it comes to communication. And in both cases, the disruptor was technology.
For King George, it was the “wireless” that fundamentally changed how he engaged with the British people. Have a listen to the counsel his father gives him:
Suddenly, centuries of tradition were disrupted. The old ways of ruling – from a distance, seen and heard by few – had been supplanted by a device that forged an immediate, close connection between the King and his people. The radio meant he was now present in their homes, and created the perception that he was speaking to them personally. What he said, and how he said it, now mattered, as there was a direct and immediate connection to them.
And now the same is true of executive leaders. We’ve all been customized for many decades at having people speak to us in our homes through radio and television. It had already started to surface in a different level of expectation outside the home as well; people wanted to feel that same sense of connectedness whenever someone spoke to them, even across a podium.
But now it’s different. People not only expect a speaker to connect with them; they expect to be able to connect right back. Social media is the great disruptor of our age. It’s opened the channels, and made one-way communication insufficient and perhaps ultimately obsolete.
The impact on executive leaders is huge. The two-way nature of social media has changed the rules of engagement. Like old kings ruling from a far, executive leaders can no longer lead from on high; they need to engage. They must be seen and heard by their employees and other stakeholders. What they say, when they say it, and how they say it matters because it carries far and fast.
So here’s the new reality for executive leaders: Speak up. Engage well and often. And when you speak, whether at a podium or across a meeting room, be sure you speak to the actual people in the room. Show them that you are aware of their specific interests and concerns, use the language and level of detail that they understand, and give them an opportunity to respond. The old days of one-way communication are gone, and clinging to them will reflect badly on your leadership.
This post originally appeared in Marianne’s blog. It is re-posted here with her express permission.