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The most important part of leadership: communication

Think about the greatest leaders of all time for a minute. Are you done yet? I’ll wait…

Maybe you thought about Gandhi, Mandella, MLK, Churchill, or someone else. You may have read their life stories and know all about them. More likely, you’ve heard quotes. Great leaders are quotable because they can craft powerful messages that stick with us.

There are a lot of motivations to become a leader. Changing our world is but one of them. The leaders mentioned above needed good messaging because that seemed to be their motivation. As a leader, yours may be different. However, to be a great one, you must borrow the skills of others.

Great messages encapsulate the essence of purpose, mission, and vision into bite-size, memorable words. Some may possess a natural gift for creating punchy messages. Most of us need to work at it. Here’s an approach to thinking about messaging.

For example, I will use the creation of A2Agile’s newest program.

  1. Outcome - we want to get the attention of prospective clients in the startup and venture capital spaces

  2. Why this now? - we think that we can make a big difference for rapidly growing companies by setting them on a path to continued success

  3. Underlying situation - startup leaders must focus on building a great product or service and delivering it to customers. They have little time to think about how culture evolves as the company grows

Breaking the idea down made us realize that a company culture emerges organically in every startup that continues to grow. Left to chance, the results of this development will likely need adjustments. Implementing adjustments in larger organizations requires more time and money. Therefore, entrepreneurs must be intentional about the culture they create earlier in their development. 

From this thinking, we came up with “Intentional Culture” as the name for our program. “Intentional” describes a personal action. There are many aspects to “culture,” and this caused us some concern with the word. Ultimately, we didn’t find a better one.

Other aspects of our messaging came from this analysis. We recognize that startup leaders may care about their culture but can’t afford to distract the organization from its primary mission. Ideas such as “organic,” “frictionless,” and “minimally invasive” came to mind to assure leaders that we understand the importance of respecting the primary mission.

Whatever message you are trying to convey as a leader, finding the right words is paramount. What you say needs to resonate with people when you’re not there. Powerful language stays with employees, customers, and other stakeholders and motivates them to take actions that align with the message.

Developing excellent communication skills not only builds alignment. It also ensures that people align around the highest priority ideas. Consistent messaging reinforces both priorities and alignment. This is a primary responsibility of leaders. Communicating early and often with the right messages is the embodiment of great leadership.

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