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What a performance: Are your leaders in tune with their people?

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What a performance: Are your leaders in tune with their people?

It’s that time of year again: we’re smack bang in the middle of festival season.

Whether your idea of a festival is hurling yourself into a muddy mosh pit for an entire weekend or just surviving a day stay, it’s a task that needs much consideration. What bands/artists are you planning on seeing? What are the logistics of getting from one field to another without losing your mates? How much of a loan will you take out just for the beer tent? Whatever the plans, you need strong organisational skills to ensure it all goes to plan.

That’s tough for you, the festival goer. So imagine being the artist you’re willing to hang around hours for to see. What’s the set list going to contain? How much new material will be included? Will there be any audience participation? Will they deign to turn up on time, or keep the masses waiting? Again with the planning and organising (although they’ll probably have someone making these decisions for them, depending on their place in the hierarchy of musical important / relevance / popularity of course).

‘What’s this sidetrack got to do with internal comms?’ we hear you chant.

Well, we think that musicians have a lot to do with your leader’s style of communication delivery.

For example, presentations take planning, rehearsing, engagement and, if you do it right, the respect of your (hopefully) connected audience. Like musicians, there are those leaders that do it right, and those who don’t. Do they need more practice? Better planning? Or do they struggle to get their audience to buy into what they’re communicating? To make this more on point, we’re going to use two of the music world’s biggest names in doing it (very) right and doing it (horrendously) wrong…

  • On Stage 1, please welcome everyone’s favourite South Londoner and potty mouth, Adele.
  • While on Stage 2, make massive way for the inflated ego of the one and only Mr/Sir/King (delete as applicable) Kanye West.

So, Adele. Whether you’ve been lucky enough to witness her in all her full-on diva / down to earth glory in person or just on TV, you’ll see it’s not just her jaw-dropping belter of a voice that makes her performances stand head and shoulders above the rest. It’s her easy transition from Grammy / Brits winner and platinum selling artist to being just like the rest of us in a heartbeat that makes her both loved and respected.

That instant connection with her audience – whether it’s a beer-fuelled Glastonbury rabble or a fresh-as-a-daisy Royal Albert Hall gathering – reminds us all that despite the entourage and the very healthy bank account that she could easily be at the bar on any given Friday night sinking a well earned pint. Refreshing right? So, let’s think of her as the leader that people love and respect. She knows where she’s been, where she’s going and what she needs to do to get there. She also takes time to listen to her team, takes on board what they’re saying and, above all else, knows the better ways of communicating a message to them.

Adele, like any good leader, knows that connecting to people is key to getting them to buy into a business communication.

Whether it’s good or bad, gaining the trust and respect from those around you is one massive step towards being a true team. Adele has worked on that from the early days; all those rehearsals have paid off and all those times she listened and responded are remembered and treasured.

The lessons from Team Adele? Preparation is as important as being the communication ‘rock’ your organisation’s people hold on to and hold dear.

And now it’s time for something a little different

We say ‘different’; we actually mean ‘Please, for the love of God do not be this kind of leader. No really; don’t’.

Dramatic you may think, but this is the Kanye style of communicating badly. So what does a way-out-West leader do that’s so far removed from the Adele school of thought? Plenty. Everything this type of leader does with regard to their style and ability to communicate with their people is either wrong or very wrong. There is no middle ground.

There is no audience participation. There is just a full-on assault of your intelligence. In a weird way, they could almost be applauded for their sheer tunnel vision abilities and single-mindedness. Rant over, so let’s discuss it in more detail. If you follow anything connected to Mr West online or in the press, it all points to one solitary thing: self-promotion. The three key people in his world – namely, Me, Myself and I – are firmly in the front seat of the journey he’s taking. It might be possible for you to sit back and think; ‘Yes, I know a leader like this’, and no doubt we could all maybe think of at least one. This type of leader is all tell and no sell.

Whether it’s the over-inflated air of self-importance they project or the fact they’re just not interested in the opinions or thoughts of others, you’ll be on the receiving end of a communication only; there’ll be no room for two-way discussion.

The days of dictators should certainly be over, but on occasion, one or two manage to slip through the net. Let’s go back to 2015 and that infamous Glastonbury appearance. Taking away the flashing lights and pyrotechnics (unless your organisation is that flush), we’re left with one man, one mic and one massive helping of arrogant swagger. The one line that the online population couldn’t handle at the time – ‘You are now watching the greatest living rock star on the planet!’ – summed up everything that West is about in 12 words.

Imagine an organisation’s leader behaving like this; you’d think they couldn’t give a monkeys about what they’re delivering, how it might affect those hearing it and what the bigger picture will look like in the near future. And that’s not right. The takeaways from this? Project your leadership abilities by all means, but don’t forget the people that look up to you expect a lot more than bluster and selfishness.

In summary…

We appreciate that we’ve covered the extremes of leadership delivery styles. We know that there are far more out there fighting the good fight and doing a great job for their teams than those making a hash of it. At Alive, we’re massive fans of those doing it right, and we’ve got a great team of highly experienced and talented people who can help you if you think your delivery style is a little off-key. Get in touch with us today and we’ll make sure you get a front row seat for everything you think you might need. And we promise not to be divas; the only things on our rider are a constant supply of tea and chocolate biscuits :).

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Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

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Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

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