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In one of his books, Stephen R Covey, Educator and author, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, said, “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.”

His assessment of leadership and its inextricable link to communication is reflective of his astute understanding of the two concepts. Leaders are selected to lead a team in fulfilling a given task or objective. It, therefore, requires the leader to influence, persuade and motivate their team. It is said that you can communicate without motivating, but it is impossible to motivate without communicating. If this is true, then to be a good leader, one has to master the art of communication.

What makes a leader a good communicator? Is it just passing down instructions or informing the team about the task? If communicating to motivate is the key to bringing out people’s worth and potential, then a leader must communicate and more.

School of Meaningful Experiences has identified certain traits in a leader which enables them to communicate effectively to meet the desired objective. These are the six Cs, Curiosity, Creativity, Competence, Collaboration, and Confidence, leading to effective communication.

Let’s unravel them:

Curiosity: Todd Kashdan, PhD, professor of Psychology at George Mason University in his book Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life  states,

“Curiosity, at its core, is all about noticing and being drawn to things we find interesting. When we are curious, we see things differently; we use our powers of observation more fully.”

How very true! Leaders must see things differently to identify opportunities that help them complete tasks along with their team to achieve their organisation’s goals. Curious leaders do not follow mundane patterns but always try to find newer ways to complete the task more efficiently.

The story of Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery of the British Army exemplifies the curious leader phenomenon. During World War I, he was marching along with his troops in Europe as a young Captain. Germans were continuously bringing down artillery fire along the route of advance. As his troops were tired, he decided to give them some rest. While his men were resting, a curious Montgomery sat down to study the artillery fire pattern, and it suggested to the sharp Captain that within minutes his troops’ resting place will be attacked next. He immediately asked his men to move out. And, sure enough, in the next few minutes, the resting area was battered by heavy shelling. Montgomery’s power of curiosity saved many lives.

Creativity: Creativity is the ability to innovate to surmount a problem. It is imperative to understand that every problem requires different solutions and no one size fits all answer. A leader must analyse the issue and use their creativity to conjure an effective solution for it. Furthermore, an effective leader ensures the fostering of creativity within their team.

Sir Ken Robinson, in his talk Out of our Minds: Learning to be creative at the London Business Forum, stated: “The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas. It’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel they’re valued”.

Mahatma Gandhi is an excellent example of a creative leader. He created Satyagraha to fight the British when he discovered its affinity to use violence and excessive force on Indians. His nonviolence methods found an audience among world leaders like Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela.

Competence: Authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner, in their book Credibility – How Leaders Gain and Lose it, Why People Demand it, write that their research has identified Competence as one of the top four admired attributes of leadership. Competence implies having the required skills to train and lead the constituents of your team.

Leaders must have the knowledge and abilities of the task they and their teams are required to undertake. They must also regularly dedicate themselves to learning and improving themselves. They cannot afford to be rusty, says Stephen Covey, while talking about it in the 7th Habit, “Sharpen the Saw”.

Collaboration: A team is as strong as its weakest link, and a good leader will work towards strengthening that link by creating a balanced and robust unit. A competent leader perfects the art of empathetic listening. Through listening, they try to understand their constituents and works on their strengths and shortcomings. They seek first to understand before being understood, as illustrated by habit 5 from The 7 habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Collaboration helps build faith and trust not only in the leader but also amongst the team members. It helps in motivating. It is said that the Battle of Waterloo was won in the playfields of Eton. Eton is a famous public school in England, and most of the officers involved in the battle were contemporaries and had played together building a strong bond.

Confidence: Confidence implies self-belief, the unshakeable faith in oneself to be able to achieve something. It stems from curiosity to learn and become competent, to be able to find and create solutions and having the ability to build trust and self-belief in the entire team through effective collaboration.

Confidence is seeking opportunity amid chaos.

Communication: Leadership is communicating to people their worth. A leader must know the purpose of the communication, who is to be communicated to and what is to be communicated – The Message. It must be done in the best manner to be understood clearly by the audience to achieve the desired results.

When Sir Winston Churchill said during the Second World War that he expected every Briton to do his duty, he was motivating each one to give their very best to the war efforts to defeat Germany. Having understood the mood of the time, he used the appropriate sentences, short and simple.

We all must strive towards learning the six traits of leadership to become effective leaders in our own right. In the current environment where corporates are looking for capable leaders who can communicate and lead their teams to achieve their stated goals, School of Meaningful Experiences has chosen to train and create such leaders.

Col M K Mandanna, SM (Veteran), SoME Guide.