July 28, 2009

The Difference Between Communication & Leadership

I thought about titling this "Why Our President Is A Great Communicator & Not A Great Leader", but I thought that might be a little harsh. So for the record, let me simply state that I'm using our President as an example. Many of our Presidents have fallen into a similar category as President Obama.

Recently there was a report that democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were a little upset & disappointed with the President & his lack of leadership. They said it was time for the President to demonstrate some leadership & clarity as they work on the health care reform that's become a huge story in the media in recent weeks. As I see it, President Obama's problem is that he is an excellent communicator & speaker, but not necessarily a great leader. At least he's not demonstrating the quality of leadership that's needed right now.

When he speaks, it's still very much a campaign style, vision casting tone that makes people feel good, but it doesn't really lead anywhere. He doesn't give us a really clear picture of what his plans mean for us. In these times, we need a leader who can be clear about our direction, even in the midst of uncertainty. Yet the President continues to use flowery speeches filled with hope & change that are quickly losing their punch with the general public. Sadly, this wear is starting to show on the President. Last week he said it was time to stop talking about health care reform & to act on it. Well, the problem with that is 1) our government is built on debate 2) we haven't really had a good, clear discussion on the issue.

Not all communicators are great leaders; not all great leaders are amazing communicators. Just because someone possesses a skill to inspire people with his/her words does not mean that he/she can actually lead those people. So for those of us in leadership we have to figure out where we fall. Are we the great communicator who should surround themselves with competent leaders to help execute the vision we have for our organizations, or are we the strong leader who needs a mouthpiece to help communicate the vision & plan that we have?

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