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6 Ways to Communicate Like a Leader—and Be Heard

businesswoman giving a presentation a board meeting

Some years ago, Charmaine McClarie, a leading authority on executive presence, asked CEOs and senior-level executives why they were more successful than others.

“It’s not because I’m smarter than everyone,” many replied. “It’s because I leverage the information that I bring to the table. That is how I am a thought partner, and I add additional value.”

Since then, McClarie has added value to this insight by distilling six communication principles to help others advance their careers—as she says, by being “seen, heard, and recognized for what they do well.”

They are:

1. Communicate the vision, not a task.

“Leaders show you what the future looks like. They paint a very vivid picture of that. And that’s why we follow them,” she says.

2. Speak in headlines.

“The headline seduces the eye and the ear and encapsulates the vision,” says McClarie. “If you watch the news, one of the things that they say is, ‘Man eaten by alligator.’ They capture your attention with the headline.” That’s what you need to do – but more substantively.

3. Answer the three “must-make” points.

“Why should I listen?” “What’s in it for me?” “And what do you want me to do about it?” Every audience asks those three questions, whether it’s one or a thousand people.

4. Create witnesses.

“I say hard work without a witness is simply hard work and who the hell needs that? No one knows if you’ve done it with passion; if you’ve done it with strategy; if you’ve done it with vision. So you want to create witnesses to your great work.”

5. Don’t audition for the part.

“Your organization’s paying you big bucks to come to the table as a thought leader and bring incredible value. If they’re doing that, you don’t need to come to the table and ask for permission to share your insight.

“As long as you’re showing up big time and you are communicating the vision, speaking in headlines, and have your three must-make points, they’ll want to listen because you’re going to add value.”

6. Embody your message.

“It’s important that you ensure you are walking, talking, and acting the part. And in the virtual world, it is important that we seize the moment and ensure that people are listening when we speak and embodying our message–even if only from the waist up.”

In conclusion, McClarie says, every one of her clients who have leveraged these six principles for success have experienced a shift in their career trajectories within 18 months.

Charmaine McClarie Charmaine McClarie describes herself as a senior executive coach who helps leaders have their best year ever. She has worked with leaders in 27 industries across five continents. This article is based on a talk she gave at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women.

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