The Fatal Assumptions About Leadership Communication
“The leader speaks. Followers applaud on command. There is an illusion that communication took place, but it didn’t.”
– from The Leader’s Voice by Boyd Clarke & Ron Crossland
If you have done a workshop with me there is a good chance you have heard me speak about this book. It was referred to me by a mentor about 10 years ago and it turned out to be a book that really turned the lights on for me. So much so that I reached out to Ron Crossland personally (his co-author had sadly passed away by then) and the exchange ended up with permission from him to use the content in the book in my own training programs.
One of the concepts I have adapted originated with what Clarke & Crossland call the ‘four fatal assumptions’ of leadership communication. At the time they wrote the book, the authors were the CEO and Vice-Chair of the Tom Peters Company and between them had worked with thousands of clients in the fields of leadership, communication, and organisational change. Throughout the course of their work, they identified the communication-killing assumptions.
I am going to briefly touch on two of them…
Some leaders assume that their constituents UNDERSTAND what was communicated
Some of the reasons that understanding is often not achieved can include:
- Assuming that a message will not alter as it filters down through the organisation
- Information overload
- Lots of hard data with no explanation of what it actually means
- ‘Sugar coated’ language that doesn’t clearly articulate the facts
- Not providing context to a message
This list could go on endlessly, but I hope you understand. Please get in touch if you don’t – I don’t want to be guilty of this assumption myself.
It’s easy to assume we have been understood, when often we haven’t. However, we are certainly surprised when we don’t get the response we were looking for.
Some leaders assume that their constituents AGREE with what was communicated
Imagine working for a leader who just assumed that you agreed with everything. You are never consulted and you don’t feel safe to put alternative ideas forward.
Clarke & Crossland don’t say which is the most lethal of the four fatal assumptions but this one would be my pick. This is the one that most quickly leads to people feeling unvalued, unappreciated and disillusioned before they become disengaged.