You couldn’t ask for a better communications case study.
Recent political events in Canada and the US clearly demonstrate what an asset – and a liability – leadership communication style can be.
On one side we have Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is widely perceived to have an exclusive communications style. He appears to make decisions within a small circle of confidantes. He doesn’t give the impression of listening to or empathizing with the worries of the Canadians he is leading, especially as they suffer through a recession.
When people feel excluded, they tend to feel powerless and voiceless. This can lead to feelings of frustration, resentfulness, even anger. For Prime Minister Harper, his exclusive communications style contributed to a political crisis.
While Prime Minister Harper is alienating people who were previously supportive, below the border, U.S. president-elect Barack Obama is engaging people who were previously alienated. His communication style is perceived as inclusive.
Mr. Obama seems to listen. To collaborate widely. To consider others’ perspectives. Including people makes them feel valued, which leads to feelings of understanding and trust. For Mr. Obama, his inclusive communications style has conveyed him from political underdog to the top of the political pack.
What can organizational leaders draw from these comparisons?
Success truly does require a foundation of inclusive communication. We need to consult with our important audiences. Listen to their ideas. Engage them. Act on their opinions. When we include people, they will reward us with respect, trust, loyalty – and their commitment to help us succeed.