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There has been an incredible amount of research done on effective leadership practices over the years, and an argument can be made that James Kouzes and Barry Posner first defined what that should look like in their book, The Leadership Challenge. In fact, one of the practices that emerged from their groundbreaking research was that leaders are at their best when they lead from the front and "model the way.” Naturally, I often think about this truth when it comes to leaders helping people develop their communication skills.

As I’ve written before, our ability to communicate is the driving force behind our nation’s ongoing shift to a knowledge-based economy. Communication isn’t a soft skill; it’s a non-negotiable skill. As our thirst for knowledge grows, effective communication becomes essential to disseminating key ideas and concepts from organizations worldwide. 

Good leaders can spot the importance of effective communication from a mile away, too. Yet, they often forget to model the way.

Trust me when I say that preaching the importance of communication and creating opportunities for your people to improve their skills is not enough. It’s also a mistake when any leader assumes these initiatives don’t include them. That’s right — as great a leader as you are, you are not exempt from professional development. We are all continuous learners. Furthermore, your people need to see that you find so much value in this endeavor that you’re willing to put action behind your words and commit to the same things you ask of them.

Leaders Must Walk the Talk

In my early years in Corporate America, I worked with a young division head who loved hosting events that recognized individual and team success within our organization. To this day, I often think of her when talking about this concept of leading from the front — and I mean that respectfully because she was a master at it. I remember many occasions when she would ask for volunteers to show up on the morning of an event to help set up. I would always show up, mainly because I was a team player and felt like it was the right thing to do — and without fail, she was always there, getting her hands dirty, standing on ladders, hanging decorations, etc. 

That is what leading from the front and modeling the way means. It involves taking an active and visible role in your company's daily operations. You are on the front line, and when something needs to be done, you are no different than anyone else.

Far too many leaders fail to embrace this concept, especially when trying to foster effective communication skills. They get so caught up in micromanaging, communicating objectives, and ensuring everyone else is doing what they are supposed to do that they forget how important it is to lead by words and actions. 

They assume that because they are in charge, they are somehow exempt. As a result, they risk the following outcomes:

  1.  Their message loses its impact among the masses and doesn’t take root.
  2.  The trust their people had in them as leaders begins to devolve.
  3.  Employee morale plummets.
  4.  The team becomes far less productive.
  5.  Communication breakdowns run rampant.
  6.  Efforts to attract and retain top talent routinely fail.
  7.  The organization struggles to move forward.
  8.  No one improves their communication skills.

It’s been said that credibility emerges from the intersection of words and actions. If you perceive that something is valuable — especially communication skills — you have to demonstrate that commitment by leading from the front. You must recognize that improving your ability to communicate is equally as important and that you’ll be in those trainings alongside your team.

When you do, your people will notice your efforts, embrace your message, and emulate what you’re trying to achieve.

The Business World Demands More Effective Communication

Whether you are an organizational leader or an employee working your way up the corporate ladder, business success depends on how effectively we craft and deliver the right message in the right manner and align it with the right audience. Effective communication conveys direction and fosters collaboration. It also boosts employee morale, engagement, productivity, and satisfaction — especially when those employees see how committed their leaders are to the same cause. Simply put, communication drives better results — for the organization and its employees — and leaders should foster these skills by leading from the front. 

This is where tools such as TalkMeUp can help. TalkMeUp is innovative, one-of-a-kind software that profoundly addresses communication shortcomings by leveraging AI for instant measurement, analysis, reporting, tracking, scaling, and more. TalkMeUp gives you and your teams the feedback everyone needs to communicate better — all in real-time. To me, that’s the best feature. You can practice with TalkMeUp repeatedly and track your progress. As you begin to see changes in how you communicate, others will see you as a leader who speaks passionately and confidently in any setting.

Interested in seeing how TalkMeUp can help you improve your communication skills? Try TalkMeUp for free with no obligation.

About the Author
Ron Placone, Ph.D., is an Associate Teaching Professor of Business Management Communication and the Former Faculty Lead and Interim Executive Director for the Accelerate Leadership Center at the Tepper School of Business. Ron teaches a range of communication courses and leadership programs for Tepper students. Ron’s research interests include civility in discourse and fostering individual and team creativity. Previously at Carnegie Mellon, Ron was the Assistant Vice President for Learning & Development. Before joining Carnegie Mellon in 1999, Ron was Vice President and Director of Organizational Development and Communications for Mellon Network Services. Ron has been a consultant, leadership, and communication coach for numerous executives and corporate and not-for-profit organizations. He has consulted in health care, financial services, education, technology, and energy sectors. Ron has a Ph.D. in Rhetoric-English from Carnegie Mellon University.