Fulkerson: Crafted ‘messaging’ is out; genuine communication in


Aaron Fulkerson

The most effective leaders deliver the most genuine version of themselves every day. You don’t have to be anything other than what you already are to be a good leader.

We all are communicating and being communicated with, more than at any other time in human history. What comes with this daily two-way tsunami is an ever-increasing savvy around communication. People now more than ever know when they are being messaged. They know what good and bad communication is.

The reality of this dynamic has struck a particular nerve with those of us in the public relations business. For decades our focus has been to develop succinct messages that could cut through the noise and help shape reputation in a positive way. And while in the purest sense that is still what public relations is, the messenger, the tone and the way in which a message is delivered is as critical, or maybe even more critical, than the message itself.

The political sphere has led the way in this regard. We have seen political leaders embrace a stark shift in the way they communicate with their constituents and the media. Direct communication that is timely, punchy, and real is in. Polish, messaging, and perfection is out.

We are seeing this influence take root in the business world as well. Employees are looking for visibility and accessibility from leadership. They want to see their leaders in real time, without strategic corporate-speak. When we puff up our chest and try to be something that we’re not, we lose the audience. They are savvy and will disengage to a message they feel is not genuine. Pre-written speeches are a snooze-fest.

This has very practical implications for many in leadership positions. The ability to be off the cuff, spontaneous, and accessible is now a fundamental competency of leadership. Your employees demand it. This sits in stark contrast to the historic posture of a leader – inaccessible, untouchable and heavily messaged. If you’re still operating that way you’re probably behind the times.

And it doesn’t matter what your personality type is. If you’re introverted or extroverted, action-oriented or reflective, strategic or operational, brusque or gentle. Any one of those attributes can be leveraged as an effective leadership tool.

Becoming a leader is not some destination, and it’s doesn’t mean that you turn in to someone you’re not. The most powerful tool you have in your leadership toolkit is you.

Aaron Fulkerson is a partner at the consulting firm Schnake Turnbo Frank.

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