Communication cannot be neglected as a prerequisite for crisis leadership. Open communication, intentional transparency and strategic vulnerability all lay a foundation of trust. Trust is the foundation for any collaborative and dynamic team. If leaders are strategic, communication is a priority from Day 1 of his or her appointment, and the trust-building begins intentionally on the part of the leader and organically as strategy unfolds. Today, we will summarize what we have discovered regarding communication as a prerequisite for crisis leadership and the importance of honing in on one's authentic voice.
Communication as a prerequisite For a crisis
In The Connector's Advantage: 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence and Impact, author Michelle Tillis Lederman states, "Transparent leadership is key to creating a culture of trust between leaders and their employees. When employees are kept in the loop and understand their role in the overarching purpose and goals, they are more engaged and have greater trust in their employer." Thus, hyper-communication in times of crisis is key, and can be expounded upon easily when a pre-crisis communication strategy has already been established. We have examined a few explicit communication strategies earlier this week through the incorporation of a proactive Monday Memo, and a responsive and reflective Friday Focus. What are some final elements to consider when thinking about communication, both when establishing one's leadership and communication style, and as a precursor to a crisis?
What about authentic voice?
And now, a disclaimer regarding authentic voice. Communicating through an authentic voice requires knowing who you are at your core. As a new leader, you may not have found your leadership style just yet, and, like all of us, you will find that your voice is still developing (this is a journey and not a destination, folks!). What you do need to consider when communicating with your constituents, however, is being true to who you are at your core. This is something I wish I would have done from the very beginning of my principalship rather than attempting to appease the masses.
You were hired for the position you find yourself in as a school or organizational leader for a reason. You already possess the qualities and characteristics to lead with influence and clarity through a crisis. If not, you probably would not have been hired for the job. It is now up to you to determine how you will utilize your voice to communicate both proactively and responsively with your stakeholders. Don't rely on someone else to help you here. Your constituents need to hear from you, not someone you copied off the web. Feel free to share communication you draft with a few trusted colleagues or friends, but let the voice be true to you. Your authenticity will be noticed and appreciated by those under stress.
Now that we have discussed communicate as a pre-crisis strategy that allows a culture of transparency and trust to be built, we move on to pre-crisis relationships. We have talked about communication as a means to develop trust and vulnerability, but what does that truly look like when we start building our dynamic and collaborative teams? Relationships will kick off our second full week of our crisis leadership series tomorrow on the blog. Stay tuned!
Linger a Little Longer:
1. What have you learned about pre-crisis communication that you will carry with you into your leadership practice moving forward?
2. Out of the three elements discussed today with regard to communication (clarity of purpose, hyper-communication, leading with empathy), which do you need to focus on the most? What strategy can you utilize to improve this area of your communication technique?
3. Assess the current state of your authentic voice. How might you speak more authentically with your constituents starting today?