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  • Writer's pictureJon Mechan

How to Develop Your Leadership Voice

A client recently moved into a C-level role in a new organisation. They have a million and one things on their plate right now. One key issue is around communication - what, when, and how to communicate with their peers, stakeholders, and team.

A challenge for many leaders as they climb to more senior roles is developing executive presence, or a leadership voice, rather than a lack of strategic ability. This can sometimes be perceived as a lack of ‘readiness’, and the best way to combat this is to improve communication skill.

Understand the Context

The first thing to consider is whether your communication is appropriate and relevant to the context. This means ensuring you are observing and listening to what’s happening around you. This can be in terms of direct conversation or in the form of ‘weak signals’ - things you’re hearing via your team - although in those cases you should always assume there’s more to any story than you’re immediately aware of.

When you’re sure you’re in the right context, share your views and make sure that you’re bringing others along with your narrative.

Be a Visionary

Make sure you are keeping the wider organisation or enterprise in mind - take a broader view than just your function or role. Articulate your aspirations for the future and a rationale for any transformation you have in mind. Consider how your ideas and decisions affect others in the organisation as a whole.

Cultivate Strategic Relationships

Developing strategic stakeholder relationships is a pivotal part of being a successful leader.

Build your strategic thinking by leveraging relationships intentionally. Make sure you know what’s going on in the broader business - expand your knowledge beyond your role, department, or expertise.

One way to do this is to take time to reach out to at least one person a week outside your team to discover:

  • How do they fit into the business as a whole?

  • What are their goals and challenges?

  • How might you support them as a strategic business partner?

Look beyond the horizon for your vision

Keep Your Commitments

Building a reputation as being trustworthy and reliable is always going to help. Deliver what you say you’re going to deliver. If you can’t, communicate proactively about what’s going on. This will significantly help you build relationships with your peers and stakeholders.

This is particularly true if you’re in a more support-focused or business enablement function such as Finance, IT, HR, etc.. It’s unlikely that other parts of the business will see you as credible if the basics aren’t well handled.

Bring Solutions, Not Just Problems

This is a classic piece of business advice, applicable to every person up and down any organisation. It’s a classic for a reason. Ensure that you’re brainstorming fresh ideas. Don’t just point at difficult issues, work with your strategic relationships to come up with solutions, then communicate and implement them.

Stay Calm

As responsibilities increase, so does pressure. Make sure you stay calm and level-headed even if others are losing their minds. When emotions run high, keep your cool and try to stick with facts rather than emotional responses.

There will be times when you’ll want to use more emotion-based communication but it should be used sparingly and deliberately - not in a reactive way.


When it comes to communicating with your team, experiment until you find a routine rhythm that works and then stick to it. Review every once in a while to make sure it’s still making sense. Give your team something to hang their hat on - communicate the vision and strategy and reiterate it on a regular basis. Quarterly town halls are a great place to start, and ensure there’s a Q&A process as a part of that.


I hope these tips are useful for you. Let me ask - what’s your communications plan? Where do you think it could be improved?

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