Humility, a key for strategic leadership communication

Leadership communication broadly has two worlds – one inner and the other outer. So one is for the people and the other is for the world. 

So for the inner world, a strategic leadership communication needs to inspire with a shared vision, it needs to create a sense of belonging, a sense of team spirit, a desire to excel and an assurance that the voice will be heard. 

For the outer world the leadership communication is a key to brand positioning of the leader in the community via-a-via in a greater community as a corporate leader. 

Now let’s look into the traditional approach versus the new-age approach. Whenever we look into strategic leadership communications most pundits will tell you that it is the “survival of the fittest” as it is a “dog eat dog” world and so you have to be the “loudest voice” to be heard. The claim of the loudest voice being most impactful and respected, as it exudes authority and power, is age-old and obsolete. 

Whether to the outer world or to the inner world, a key ingredient that needs to be added “to be listened to” is humility. It is no longer the loudest voice, it is the voice of humility that is able to cut through the clutter, cut through the noise. If a leader truly wants “to be listened to” by the inner and outer worlds, humility is the tool that he has to have in his communication strategy arsenal.  

There has been a transformation in concepts of leadership. The age-old concept resembles an “arrogant boss treating his team as minions” in the inner world or “crying out loud how great a leader he or she is” to the outer world. Today, leadership has transformed to a more “problem-led leaders”, a concept developed by MIT, it represents leaders who prefers to be a collaborate with his or her team with the sole aim to solve the problem at hand. Unlike age-old leaders, these problem-led leaders are not believers in attracting “followers” personally — by dint of their charisma, status in a hierarchy, or access to resources. Instead, their method is to get others excited about whatever problem they have identified as ripe for a novel solution. Having fallen in love with a problem, they step up to leadership — but only reluctantly, and only as necessary to get it solved. Therefore, leadership becomes an intermittent activity as people with enthusiasm and expertise step up as needed, and readily step aside when, based on the needs of the project, another team member’s strengths are more central.

Thus humility becomes a key ingredient in their leadership. 

Historically, leadership communications have been crafted in such a way so as to make sure that they are authoritative and dictatorial, commandments received from far above. This is a legacy from the royal communication of Kings. Small wonder the role of strategy in leadership communication has never been so important earlier because it has been always dictatorial for both inner and outer worlds with the sole objective of exuding power. However, the objective of leadership communication is not to dominate or intimidate the inner or the outer worlds but to encourage an uninterrupted flow of information, even from the bottom of the pyramid or from the most shy consumer. 

Unlike those days, strategic leadership communications now needs to be more nuanced to meet the objectives of co-creation, shared vision, inspiration, information flow and engagement, among others. 

And it will never be complete without a dash of humility.  

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Mahul Brahma
Prof (Dr.) Mahul Brahma is Dean and Professor of NSHM Media School and NSHM Design School. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Business School, Bath Spa University, UK. He is former Professor, Dean of School of Media and Communications and Director of Communications at an Indian university.

Prof Brahma was Chief Editor and Head of CSR, Corporate Communications and Branding, Publishing and Conferences for a Tata Steel and SAIL JV, mjunction. He is a D.Litt in luxury and communications, and a PhD in Economics. He is a TEDx speaker on the mythic value of luxury.

He won Sahityakosh Samman in 2022 and 2023, Crisis Communications Leader of the Year Award in 2021 and several other national-level awards in communications and CSR. He is a luxury commentator and award-winning author of 10 books – 'Bharat, A Luxe Story', The Quiet Luxe, Aesthetic Leadership in Luxury, Mostly Missing: Be Silly Be Slow, The Mythic Value of Luxury, How to Communicate Strategically in Corporate World, the Luxe Trilogy (Decoding Luxe, Dark Luxe and Luxe Inferno) and Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona.

He is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management - Calcutta, St Xavier’s College, MICA, Sri Satya Sai University, and University of Cambridge Judge Business School. He is a golfer with a 7 handicap.

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