Leadership expert John Maxwell once *wrote, “Everything rises and falls on leadership, but knowing how to lead is only half the battle. Understanding leadership and actually leading are two different activities.” Corporate communicators often find themselves standing in the gap between the two.
C-Level leaders, and especially CEOs, are elevated to their positions of leadership for a number of reasons; being a person of vision is almost always one of them. Board members, stock holders, trustees, employees and customers all have an expectation that the CEO will make the organization more successful in every way, from profitability to the quality of the customer experience and overall work environment.
Most have a vision of how they want the future to look. Getting there, however, is sometimes the challenge. As Maxwell says, the actual leading is the key. If there is a failure to lead, often it is because of a lack of ability to communicate vision and action in ways that mobilizes people. That’s where the corporate communicator can offer an invaluable assist.
Organizational communicators have a golden opportunity to be the translators if you will. They can help mobilize an entire organization by helping connect the CEO’s vision with people. Here are four ways organizational and corporate communicators can help CEOs – and thus their organizations – be successful.
1. Have a servant attitude
No, I’m not advocating being a doormat, but I am advocating that egos and agendas be checked at the door. The CEO is the star of the show; corpcomm folks are supporting players. Recognize the CEO carries a ton of pressure to perform. Ask, “How can I apply my expertise in such a way that I help this person succeed?” If the CEO succeeds, then everyone succeeds. A little humility goes a long way, and in a room where often everyone postures, humble helpfulness stands out.
2. Be competent
This applies to everything from job skills to knowing everything there is to know about the CEO. Pay attention to what he or she says and look for the larger context, because they often talk bigger picture. Know the details necessary to arrive at his or her vision. And if the CEO mentions an article, book titles or has written either, make haste, buy and read! It is important for corporate communicators to show they “get” from where it is their CEOs are coming and to where it is they are trying to get.
3. Build trust
Corporate communicators get precious little time with CEOs so it is important to maximize those opportunities. Humility, competence and preparation get noticed and build trust. CEOs want and need people around them they can trust so every encounter should be seen as a moment of significant importance. Confidence and trust are either being built or they are being eroded, and it is the wise communicator who recognizes that.
Period. The margin for error is non-existent when it comes to dealing with the CEO. Failure to deliver is not an option. Consistently deliver – and exceed expectations as often as possible – and watch the opportunities to help consistently increase. Bottom line: CEOs are judged on their performances and so too are those who serve them.
Working directly with the CEO is not for everyone, however, there is an incredible opportunity to contribute to the overall success of the organization for those who are confident in their job skills and who are willing to bridle their egos.
*Maxwell quote found in The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader