Remember What Presidential Elections Teach

For anyone who helps leaders communicate – and leaders who every day as part of the job – the 2012 presidential race in the US is a virtual classroom.

Every lesson a leader must learn about communications comes to life on this stage. Here are a few lessons from the 2012 campaign so far.

Communication is a core leadership competency. Years ago, pundits poked fun when Ronald Reagan was called “communicator in chief”. But how the President communicates is fundamental to the leader’s impact. And, in this day, when mis-communication can be so quickly shared, there’s no tolerance for a leader who is not clear and consistent.

Communication is not only about speaking. Our leaders speak volumes when they listen, in business and in politics. But they must not only say they listen they must demonstrate what they hear. As employees and voters, we don’t have much patience for leader who pretend to care what we say and simply go back to the script some communicator prepared.

Communication is a 24/7 spectator sport. There is no let up in the communication demands that leaders must meet. Whether in business or politics, someone is always watching how a leader behaves, looks, wonders and wanders, and tries to find a reason for every expression or explanation. No leader gets a vacation from communicating.

Communication cannot be delegated. Certainly, the tactics can be implemented by others, but the ultimate responsibility to communicate belongs to the leader. And unless a leader is willing to invest in the communication dimensions of the job, the results will disappoint.

Communication is a social experience regardless of social media. The media a leader chooses – or that we choose for a leader – are less the issue than the social experience the leader creates in any medium. Communication is, essentially, a social experience of people interacting. And that was true long before anyone ever learned to tweet.

Stay tuned for more lessons from the presidential candidates of 2012. We have months to go.

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