Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

If everyone is a leader, who is following?

A friend whispered this question to me during a large gathering of business people recently. Several business owners were touting their leadership abilities, and the fact that all of their companies were leaders in some way.

“Where are all of the followers,” he wondered. “Are they in a different break-out session?”

His observation, while funny, is worth considering. Not everyone is a leader and not everyone is involved with an organization or a business that is perceived to be a leader. So why do we hear so much about it?

The notion of leadership has always been popular. There are articles, books, videos and training designed to teach people how to lead others and what leadership means. However, many miss a key fact – there are no leaders without followers.

In business, followers translate into customers. As a communication professional, I look at how leadership is communicated effectively to others and how target audiences respond to stated leadership vs. actual leadership.

Many businesses proclaim to be the leader in their industry, community, or region. And, we know that customers and clients want to do business with the leaders in their area. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that very few businesses or individuals actually demonstrate why they are the leader, either through messaging or action. If this pattern continues in a business, lack of credibility is soon to follow. Once credibility has been lost, it’s very difficult to regain. Potential customers are lost.

Leadership involves establishing a clear vision and sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly. It involves providing the information and knowledge to realize that vision. It requires action. Excellent communicators understand that knowledge and action are just as important as establishing a vision. Many businesses begin with a great vision, but are unable to communicate it or demonstrate it to others. Thus, they fail to lead. They will ultimately lose customers.

To influence audiences, consider the five C’s leaders exhibit with their communication:

1. Be clear. Clarity is essential for understanding. If your message is unclear, you will confuse your audience and will not get what you want. Any message you deliver should address the wants and needs of your audience by providing a clear benefit or establishing an action item.

2. Be concise. Whenever possible, say less. The longer you go on, the more likely you are to repeat yourself or contradict a previous point. Every moment of messaging should resonate with impact and provide value to those who are hearing it.

3. Be confident. If you are not confident in the message you are delivering, why should anyone else be?

4. Be credible. Credibility in communication correlates directly to another essential aspect of influence – trust. If your client or customer does not find you credible, they won’t trust you, and it will be harder to influence them with your message.

5. Be compelling. In order to motivate or persuade you must compel them to not only listen to you, but also do something as a result of hearing your message. As a leader, you can engage others by clearly demonstrating value and then fueling your delivery with passion.

The next time you hear that a business or organization is the leader in a certain area, ask yourself, where are their followers? If you find that there is a loyal customer base, they just may be on to something.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or Linked In.

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