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Senior leadership: why train your leaders in executive communication skills?

In leadership communications, the focus shifts to being as well as doing, which means that how you’re showing up becomes as important as the words you speak. We believe that one of the major keys to successful executive communication is executive presence.

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We believe the secret to executive presence lies in authentic charisma. Charisma isn’t something that some people are born with and others aren’t; everyone can learn how to be charismatic.

Successful executive communication is also about clarity. Leaders need to be absolutely clear about their overall message and be able to communicate it in an inspiring and memorable way. Complexity is the enemy of clarity, so much of Ginger’s work with executives involves helping them to strip the clutter out of their communications and communicate with more simplicity and clarity.

Ultimately, we all want to be led by leaders who act and speak like human beings. The more senior we become, the more tempting it can be to stick to a tightly scripted corporate narrative; but the more we do that, the more dehumanised our communication becomes. The final key to successful executive communications is therefore exceptional storytelling – being able to win hearts as well as minds.

Senior Leadership - Why train your leaders in executive communication skills

What do Jacinda Ardern, Joanna Lumley and the late Queen Elizabeth II have in common?

The answer is their unquestionable ability to make their audiences sit up and take note. Whether debating in Parliament, compelling donations in a charity campaign or addressing the entire world as subjects, these three women nailed the magic formula – they are executive communication experts. Their roles demand it. All three must be entirely convincing and compelling in their communications with their audiences. And all three have achieved this while maintaining their wonderfully unique characters. Arden’s passionate powerful communications, Lumley’s demure sincerity, Queen Elizabeth’s steady stoicism are all very different characteristics, but yet, they have the same power to convince.

Within this article, we’ll share why executive communication skills are important, the common qualities in successful communication, and why anyone can master executive communication skills.

But first…a case study.

Let us tell you a story…

There once was a little girl who lived in a palace. She was a happy little girl who liked riding and silly little dogs called corgis. She needn’t have a care in the world, until her father died. Suddenly, little Lilibet was catapulted into the world’s most public leadership position, she became the Queen of England. Immediately, and in grief, she had to communicate with the whole world. The way she decided to do that, through the power of storytelling would see her tenure as the world’s longest serving monarch heralded for years to come. Through the art of storytelling, her speeches and addresses displayed an unlikely empathy and understanding for the toils of her subjects. Here’s an excerpt from one of her earliest broadcasts, when she was still a Princess:

Princess Elizabeth’s wartime broadcast on BBC Children’s Hour, 1940

Thousands of you in this country have had to leave your homes and be separated from your fathers and mothers. My sister, Margaret Rose, and I feel so much for you as we know from experience what it means to be away from those we love most of all.

All of us children who are still at home think continually of our friends and relations who have gone overseas – who have travelled thousands of miles to find a wartime home and a kindly welcome in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States of America.

My sister and I feel we know quite a lot about these countries. Our father and mother have so often talked to us of their visits to different parts of the world. So it is not difficult for us to picture the sort of life you are all leading, and to think of all the new sights you must be seeing, and the adventures you must be having.

We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well; for God will care for us and give us victory and peace.

My sister is by my side and we are both going to say goodnight to you. Come on, Margaret. Goodnight, children.

We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well; for God will care for us and give us victory and peace. And when peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place.
My sister is by my side and we are both going to say goodnight to you.

What is ‘Executive Presence’?

The roots of executive presence are deeply embedded in trust. Much of what creates a strong leader relates directly to the ability for someone to believe that what you are saying is genuine and authentic. Humans have a deep sense of instinct, we sure can smell a rat! But if we are honest and true to ourselves, even about our flaws and mistakes, trust and respect grow and a connection builds. Executive presence isn’t something that happens overnight, it’s about showing up every day in as authentic a manner as possible.

But simply being authentic isn’t enough. Strong leaders must also have the ability to carry their message authentically. That’s where ‘authentic charisma’ comes in. All three ladies mentioned above have demonstrated authentic charisma: the confident delivery of a message that they believe in, while maintaining their unique sense of character. While it may seem like they were born with this ability, it’s actually something that everyone can learn.

“You have to talk the talk, walk the walk…and strut!”

Anyone can be charismatic

One of the most common misconceptions that we come across in our courses is the belief that ‘I’m just not charismatic’. But frankly, that’s a load of old tosh! What makes for charisma may surprise you. It isn’t about laying on the charm, in fact, it can be quite the opposite. Charisma is actually about having enough confidence to be your true self. Keeping that in mind, take a look at some of the factors that contribute to charisma:

  • Genuine Expression

    Authentically charismatic people express themselves genuinely, meaning their words, emotions, actions and body language all align to their values. This creates a sense of sincerity and honesty that is magnetic. Because most humans have an innate sense of morality, it’s easier to align ourselves to people who are sincere.

  • Emotional Intelligence

    Emotional intelligence, being attuned to the emotions of others and themselves, allows you to communicate with empathy and thoughtfulness to address your audience in the most appropriate way. It makes sense that when people feel understood, they feel more able to trust.

  • Humility

    No-one is perfect, and anyone who pretends they are (surely) can’t be trusted. Practicing humility in acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses demonstrates a confidence that is extremely charismatic and helps to make you more relatable.

  • Passion and Purpose

    Charismatic people are often driven by passion and purpose. Their enthusiasm for what they do is infectious, and their commitment to a meaningful cause can inspire and motivate others. That’s why we encourage our course participants to define their ‘idea worth spreading’. Having a mission, a ‘North star’ in corporate speak, can help to give direction and purpose that filters through the organisation. Being able to communicate that with  passion is what brings people along for the ride.

  • Transparency

    It’s rude to whisper…That’s what we’re taught from a young age, isn’t it? So if you’re hiding things as a leader, why would anyone trust you? Authentic charisma requires transparency and open communication, being comfortable sharing your authentic self and allowing others to see you as real and relatable.

  • Clarity

    Authentic charisma is also about being absolutely clear on your overall message and being able to communicate it in an inspiring and memorable way. Complexity is the enemy of clarity but so many corporate communications wear complexity like a badge of honour. In much of Ginger’s work with Executives we help them to strip the clutter out of their communications, and to communicate with more simplicity and clarity.

What do you think…Is this starting to sound more achievable?

Why executive communications training matters

One of the reasons that Angelou’s messages are so rousing, is her use of storytelling. Storytelling is a powerful tool for senior leaders, and here’s why:

Some of you might still be on the fence, and it’s completely understandable that many feel uncomfortable with the concept of executive communication…or even leadership in general. Most organisational leaders have risen up the ranks either within their own organisation or another, excelling at their skill or craft, not necessarily ever receiving leadership training at all. That doesn’t mean that they’re not capable leaders, not at all. But it might mean that they don’t necessarily feel like the leaders they rightfully are.

That’s where training in executive communication can make a huge difference. Ginger’s executive communication courses aim to bring out your most authentic self and discover your confident communication style.

Your leaders may benefit from executive communications training if they:

  • Find they are ‘people pleasing’
  • Avoid or find situations of conflict challenging
  • Struggle to get buy in from colleagues or stakeholders
  • Want to feel confident speaking in public
  • Have a mission they want to propel

Executive communication plays an essential role in all leadership communications, from managing conflict to progressing a strategy. The skills you will learn with executive communications training will prove invaluable. Because once we can communicate effectively, we can turn opinion and get things done. Why do you think there’s so much spend on marketing – messaging and how it’s presented matters.

So what will you learn in our courses?

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What executive communication training teaches

Ginger runs several courses that improve communication skills and propagate confidence, they also teach you:

  • How to structure your ‘idea worth spreading’
  • How to build resonance and buy in with your ideas
  • How your ideas can be amplified by others
  • How to manage difficult conversations and keep your cool
  • How to boost your impact and visibility
  • The effects of different communication styles
  • Speaking skills
  • How to throw caution to the wind and step out of your comfort zone
  • This list could go on and on!

Jacinda Ardern, rise of the authentic leader

From the moment Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister of New Zealand, the world took note. Labour’s leader Andrew Little had resigned after a historically low opinion polling result for the party, just 5 months into Ardern’s term as Deputy Prime Minister. Ardern was unopposed as leader in his place and was, at that time the world’s youngest female head of government, at 37. The next year, she had a baby and was only the second head of government to have given birth while serving. All of this put the media’s lens firmly on Ardern and, as she settled into office, the whole world watched. They watched as she demonstrated genuine compassion by embracing the families of those who lost their lives in the Christchurch terrorist attack, and took swift action against guns, marrying her words and actions.They watched as she replaced stiff ‘party-line’ speeches, with heartfelt pleas backed by solid action plans.  It was Ardern’s authenticity and passionate delivery that cemented her standing as one of the most popular leaders of our time. Ginger believe that in executive communication, the focus shifts to our being as well as our saying; or put differently, how we’re showing up becomes as important, if not more important, than what we’re actually saying. So, the key to successful executive communication, as demonstrated by Ardern, is actually ‘Executive Presence’.

I cannot determine what will define my time in this place. But I do hope I have demonstrated… That you can be anxious, sensitive, kind and wear your heart on your sleeve. You can be a mother, or not, an ex-Mormon, or not, a nerd, a crier, a hugger – you can be all of these things, and not only can you be here – you can lead. Just like me

Ultimately want to be led by leaders who act and speak like real human beings. The more senior we get, the more tempting it can be to religiously stick to a tightly scripted corporate narrative of key messages; but the more we do that, the more de-humanised our communication often becomes. The final key to successful executive communications is therefore exceptional storytelling – being able to win hearts as well as minds.

Storytelling ability is a golden thread that runs through our executive communications courses. You can find out more about our courses here:

The essentials of storytelling
An introduction to Ted-style talking
Courageous communications
Amplify
Boosting women’s voices
High-impact communications
Storytelling mastery

Amplify teaches business leaders how to source, structure and sell the
story that will have the power to shift hearts and minds.

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