If I’m not at Lush HQ working with the creative geniuses we have on the team, I’ll be working with companies on all things strategy and leadership.
I have had the privilege, and horror, of working with all kinds of leaders, and I’ve witnessed some breathtaking, awe-inspiring and beautiful leadership moments and I’ve seen, undergone and survived some complete train wrecks.
A consistent facet of leadership that often goes wrong and results in calamity is the leader’s inability to communicate well. Log on to your newsfeed and you will see world leaders, some daily, (I didn’t say his name) who fail repeatedly at communication. I’m sure people have already come to mind whom you have worked with or worked for who have made life hard for themselves because of this.
So, what I thought I would do is give you a few epic leadership fail tips that I have either observed or accidentally orchestrated myself that if you can adopt, should lead you into a great pit of leadership despair. Embrace them wholeheartedly. Listen, learn, and crash and burn.
Alternatively, you can do the opposite and perhaps thrive in your leadership — but who doesn’t love a good epic fail?
Assume people are interested in what you have to say
The first thing you should do in communicating as a leader is assume people are interested in what you have to say. Imagine that for no reason whatsoever, people are going to hang on your every word and take to heart every last drop of wisdom and guidance that comes from your lips or fingertips.
Step it up a notch by referencing your important title and position as often as possible to really underline and bold your key points. Avoid myths like “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Roosevelt! What did he ever do? You’re the boss; people love and respect you because of that. You are there to lead, not care.
Be as vague and ambiguous as possible in your message
Seriously, make it a mystery or even better, a choose your own adventure activity. Saturate your message in clichés and waffle. If it can be said really well in 10 words, make it 110. If you can get people squinting, looking baffled, pulling out their phones, rolling their eyes or beginning to fidget, you’re getting close. Work at it; you’ve got this!
Whatever you do, do not listen
When your communication is verbal (and even if not), whatever you do, do not listen. If you have to listen, then practice the powerful technique of nodding and smiling to the person talking to you whilst focussing all your energy instead on what you are going to say next.
Certainly, do not seek clarity or ask open-ended questions that may lead you to (God forbid) truly understanding the other person’s perspective. It’s irrelevant. You’re awesome, you know what they’re saying or what they should be saying, and actually they probably shouldn’t be saying anything. Pointless. As I’ve said, you’re the leader – control the conversation and talk the loudest. Loudest always wins.
Never practice what you preach
Integrity is overrated and people are really good at forgetting, forgiving and forever trusting. If your lack of adherence to your own message is ever brought up, just laugh it off. People love a funny person and they are quick at letting things go. It will not cloud in any way the next time you need to communicate something important.
FURTHER LISTENING: Brand Newsroom podcast 146: Leadership, management and building a team
Avoid transparency like the plague
Best to lead people down rabbit warrens so they end up either confused, frustrated or hoodwinked. Ninety-nine per cent of the time people can’t handle the truth anyway. That’s a fact; there was even a movie made about it. They love it when their leaders keep secrets, when they hold their cards to their chest, or when they withhold crucial information for as long as possible. It will bring out the best in them. Trust me.
Anyway, I think you have a few tips there to pull off an epic fail, but if you fail at failing, give these freebies a go:
- Sugar-coat the things you don’t really want to talk about that make you or the company look bad.
- Avoid creativity at all cost.
- Don’t plan, be prepared or consider what your audience may be thinking or wanting.
- Only give people negative feedback.
- Only give people positive feedback.
- Don’t say anything at all, ever.