Find the Right Leadership Voice

By Jeswald Salacuse on / Negotiation Skills

Adapted from “Real Leaders Negotiate” by Jeswald Salacuse for the May 2006 issue of the Negotiation newsletter.

When the poet Walt Whitman wrote, “Surely, whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or her shall I follow,” he conveyed the notion that persuasive communication is fundamental to effective leadership. Whitman’s words also underscore the importance of shaping leadership communications to meet individual concerns, interests, and styles.

When deciding how to communicate, recognize that the medium you choose reveals something about you and your relationship with the person you are trying to lead.

Suppose that you’re a company CEO trying to persuade your board of directors to support an acquisition.

What if you sent each board member a detailed memorandum stating the terms and consequences of the deal?

Intentionally or unintentionally, a generic memo could signal that you take members’ support for granted, that you place little value on their opinions, and that you, not they, are running the show.

Instead, you might personally visit each director to explain the acquisition’s importance.

A face-to-face meeting shows the individual director that her support is important and that you respect her autonomy and judgment.

What’s more, holding such one-on-one meetings will enable you to get to know your directors’ individual interests and concerns, structure arrangements that satisfy those interests and concerns, and still allow you to make the acquisition that you feel is important for the company’s future.

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