How to be an inspiring leader: The six skills you need to inspire your employees

Sheryl Sandberg: The inspirational chief operating officer at Facebook

If you want to be a more inspiring leader, you need to develop six important skills. The following tips come from those in the know: leaders of global companies, charities and organisations I have interviewed on leadership communication.

FOCUS ON OTHERS
You have not communicated well if people have not heard you, understood you and felt motivated to behave differently as a result. People listen from behind their own cultural or emotional filters. So talk to staff about their concerns, their issues. Only then will you be understood on your own.

BE AN ATTENTIVE LISTENER
The simple act of listening can be an act of inspiration. You have to hear if you want to be heard. By listening and then responding with action, you create goodwill – particularly when you encourage people to bring you bad news, express their frustrations and voice their concerns, without fear of repercussion.

TAKE A STRONG POSITION
As a leader, you are going to have to stand up and give your point of view. You will have to take a position on issues, be courageous and stand up for what you believe. Too few leaders think about developing their points of view, yet – when well articulated – they can help you win friends and influence people.

BE AN ACCOMPLISHED STORYTELLER
Getting people to take notice, and later remember what you’ve said, is a big challenge. Great leaders know that we are wired to listen, imaginatively, to good stories. Remember: the best stories tell us about customer experiences, good and bad, or make heroes out of employees delivering the values of the organisation.

BE A CONSCIOUS SIGNALLER
Actions speak louder than words – a hard truth for any leader to grasp. A look of frustration, a frown of irritation when someone is talking – these send powerful signals that staff take away and dissect for meaning. Great leaders communicate optimism, and they often do it through a smile or by walking with energy. And there is nothing more corrosive than the conflict between saying one thing and doing another.

BE A POWERFUL PERFORMER ON PUBLIC PLATFORMS
Many leaders have harmed their reputations by failing to prepare properly before public speaking. But the more senior you get, the more likely it is you will have to appear on public platforms. Done well, these appearances can drive up sales or share prices, calm nervous investors, or entice new talent. Proper training or coaching is essential, but is not enough by itself. Practice makes perfect – rehearsal is key.

Kevin Murray specialises in strategic communications, reputation management and leadership communications coaching. His latest book is Communicate to Inspire: A Guide for Leaders (Kogan Page).

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