The true leader in any establishment is not the one who has the title, the academic degrees or the smarts. The true leader is always the one who has the people. This is the greatest folly of democracy because democracy has the potential to put the people with the lowest levels of intelligence in power.
Wisdom, qualifications and nobility all amount to nothing if you do not have the people. Having the hearts and minds of the people is one of the sources of power and will always remain so.
What is the key to getting the people?
The ability to reach them where it matters. The ability to strike a chord in their hearts. The key to touching people where it matters lies in strategic communication. When leadership fails to capture the hearts and minds of the led then the chances are that such leadership will not be effective.
Many organisations are dealing with culture issues. They have wonderful strategies but nothing is working the way they want it to work because there is no supporting culture for the strategy. Over the years, we have discovered that strategic communication lies at the root of culture. If communication is good, trust and team work will be high resulting in an effective organisation.
A good example to illustrate strategic communication, is US President Donald Trump. If you like him, you like him and if you do not like him, there is nothing that can change your position. President Trump says and tweets some of the most bombastic things by any president anywhere and people wonder how he is getting away with it.
What many do not realise is that when he releases those bombshells, he knows that his base is hanging on to everything he says and so while he may appear to be directing his speech at Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Twitter followers, really he is talking to his base.
Strategic communication is the ability to identify your audience and know how to tailor your communication so that you connect with their hearts and minds.
The people of old knew that the king was entitled to his opinion and entitled to say whatever he wanted to say, however he wanted to.
There is even the story of a king in ancient times who decreed that whenever he farted people had to clap. So, for ages, kings have said whatever they wanted to say. It is however up to the people around the king to ensure that the subjects get the intended meaning.
Again, Trump has perfected this. Even when you see in black and white what he has said, his people convince you that what you think you read does not mean what it appears to mean. This trend has gone from being ridiculous to a skill worth studying.
Many leaders have lost their leadership edge because they are no longer connecting with the hearts and minds of the led and that is because they have people around them who are not effective bridges between the leader and the led.
Communication is the most important thing that a leader needs to perfect either directly or by proxy.
I once had dinner with a former minister in the cabinet of president Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria. This gentleman now serves Africa in a much higher role. He told me that the Jonathan administration was the most misunderstood and unfairly judged in Nigerian history. He went on to tell me the great exploits and unsung victories of the administration. I was pleasantly surprised.
But then the question is, “Whose fault was it that the administration was not judged fairly?” That role stopped squarely at the desk of those responsible for being the bridge between the leader and the led — the strategic communications team.
What you say is not as important as how you say it and to whom you say it.
Sometimes in order for a person or a group of people to get a message, you need to direct the message at others. The ability to master the strategic nature of communication is key to a leader’s success. The sad thing is that those with substance lack the craft and those without substance are experts at it.
When a book is referred to as a best-selling book, it is not necessarily the best written book. A badly written book that is sold well will always do better than a greatly written book poorly sold.
This year as a leader you need to determine what you want to sell, how you want to sell it and to whom you want to sell it. Your ability to sell yourself strategically will determine your legacy. it will determine the perception people have of you and finally it will determine the brand called you.
Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks