Awesome You Be



To Communicate Like a Leader, Start by Talking to Yourself

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

If you want to communicate like a leader, you need to start by talking to yourself. After all, if you cannot convince yourself you are a leader, how the hell are you going to convince anyone else? Moreover, the greater your leadership potential, the more likely it is that you have doubts about your leadership ability, which only makes it more important that you get into the habit of talking to yourself positively.

Dunning–Kruger Effect

First, let's consider that seeming contradiction that great leaders have great doubts about themselves. At first it seems ridiculous, but when you understand the logic, known as the Dunning Kruger Effect, it makes sense. Incompetent leaders are, to be blunt, too bloody stupid to realise they are incompetent. They think that leadership is about bossing people about, being highly critical of everyone else and self aggrandising themselves. They are wrong of course. You know that. I know that. But, they are too stupid to know otherwise.

You, on the other hand, are intelligent, perceptive and creative. You understand that leadership is not about blunt bossiness, but about gaining the authority of leadership through act, deed and communication. When you are graced with the term leader, you are also given responsibility by the sack full. Moreover, being a good leader is hard work. It means staying on top of your field, being supportive of your teal, solving problems, making difficult decisions and more.

With all of the complexity and demands of leadership, it is only natural that competent leaders doubt their leadership ability from time to time and great leaders have great self-doubts. It is only by knowing the depth of leadership that you can know you have much to learn. It is only by appreciating the authority of leadership that you can question whether you have that authority.

On top of that, having to give speeches to large audiences, make difficult decisions and intervene in disputes can all inspire anxiety beforehand. And this anxiety contributes to self-doubt.

Inner Voice

Cartoon of woman talking to selfFortunately, the solution is not as difficult as it may seem. You simply need to have a serious conversation with yourself or, more specifically, your inner voice.

Your inner voice is that voice inside you that tells you what is going on in your head. When you have doubts about your ability to do something, it is your inner voice that is communicating this doubt to you. When you debate with yourself whether or not to take a difficult action, you are debating with your inner voice.

So, when you face a difficult task and your inner voice says to you, "who am I kidding? I am a lousy leader! I do not know what I am doing. I do not know how to solve this problem. I am a phoney!" − you need to reply to your inner voice.

The trick to replying to your inner voice is to switch the pronoun, from "I" to "you" and use your own name in the conversation. "You are not a lousy leader, Jeffrey, you are a good leader. You are indeed facing a difficult problem, but you have tackled more difficult problems in the past. Now, Jeffrey, stop focusing on doubts and use that creativity of yours to dream up a solution."

Research has shown that by doing this, you distance yourself from the situation, reduce stress and are less likely to ruminate negatively. In other words, you can reduce and manage self doubt through inner conversation.

Change Context

Another challenge for leaders is coping with anxiety inducing situations such as having to give a speech or make a difficult decision. Nearly everyone feels anxious before giving a speech in front of an audience, especially a large audience. Even professional keynote speakers, celebrities and politicians feel nervous before going on stage. So, if you feel anxious about public speaking, you are far from alone.

Let's consider anxiety for a moment. Its symptoms include fast but shallow breathing, speeded up heart beat, sweaty palms and heightened sensitivity.

You know what else feels like that? Excitement!

So, if you find yourself getting anxious, or downright scared, about a speech or anything else, have a talk with yourself in the third person and using your name. "Jeffrey, you are not scared about giving a speech on anticonventional thinking at Kwerps Inc's annual meeting, you are excited − really excited − about the tremendous opportunity to speak before this influential crowd and the opportunity to share your creative thinking technique with them. Is this a great opportunity or what?! Of course it is!"

Talk to Yourself First, then the World

Once you are in the habit of conversing with your inner voice to overcome doubts and anxieties that could inhibit your leadership ability, you will find yourself growing more confident, competent and capable of dealing with stressful situations. As a result, you will also be a better communicator to your team, your associates and the world. You will not rid yourself of self-doubt and anxiety entirely, but you will be able to manage these feelings like the leader that you are.

Doubt me? Then go have a talk with yourself and think again!



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