How Great Leaders (Emersonians) Communicate


“You’ve just been promoted into one of your organization’s Big Jobs.  Can you stick with the leadership style that brought you this far? Or do you need to recalibrate your approach?”  In an article on LinkedIn, the public speaker and writer for Forbes Magazine, George Anders, explores seven ways that great leaders communicate effectively.  While Anders’ advice is certainly interesting and highly beneficial, it is more appropriate for a CEO of a corporation or the manager of a business–not necessarily a student at Emerson College.  So we have taken it upon ourselves to tweak his advice in order for it to apply to the natural-born leaders that currently attend our one-of-a-kind school.


Bring the vision to life.  Here at Emerson, we are dreamers.  We all have fantastical ideas about what we want for ourselves, for the school, for the world.  To be an effective leader, to show that you’ve got what it takes, you have to translate your visions into actions.  Don’t just talk up your ideas.  Make things happen for yourself.  People will learn more about you from your bold moves rather than your bold speech.  Not happy with something at Emerson? Talk to Pelton about it.  And then formulate and execute a plan to make change.  Take, for instance, the Emerson Community for Healthy Dining Service Improvements.  This group isn’t just complaining about conditions, but actively working to improve them.


Ask smart questions.  “Questions can be more powerful than statements,” Anders wrote.  Asking a question will elicit a much more innovative response.  When you make a statement, your audience will simply either agree or disagree with you.  When you ask a question, you are requiring your audience to engage their minds and form ideas on their own.  When you get others to start thinking for themselves, you create a group of people who all now have something to believe in.  How can you do this at Emerson?  Attend open forums or panel discussions such as the “Made in America: Our Gun Violence Culture” panel and join in on the conversation.


Take time to read the room.  Know your audience.  Make the effort to listen carefully and figure out what people want of you.  When you cater specifically to your audience, they will recognize that you are interested in who they are and what they have to say.  The more you allow them to talk, the more they will think they have learned.  If you are the editor of a publication on campus, such as the Berkeley Beacon or Em Mag, let those who are under you speak as well.  We Emersonians are very opinionated, and you would do well to earn other’s respect.


Create a climate where things get done.  In order for this to happen, you may have to dial back some of your initial planning so that your aims are more realistic.  When you do this, concentrate on a few core concepts and then make sure the people you are working with are aware of your top priorities.  Leaders of organizations and clubs on campus should know that it is more effective to successfully accomplish a few important goals in a semester rather than attempt to tackle an entire list (and only produce mediocre work).


Use stories to get your point across.  It is so important to get to know the people you are trying to have work for you, or at least make an effort to get to know them.  Telling stories and making connections is always an easy way to do this.  Give them a story about you and listen to ones about them.  Then you will always associate certain people with their stories and you can put more than just a face to a name.  Remembering who they are and a little bit about them will show you care.  This can be done everyday in your classes.  Take the initiative to learn about the people with whom you learn.  Show them that you take both them and your education seriously and one day they could be following your lead.

Be mindful of what you don’t know.  We are learning constantly, especially as students.  We all come from different backgrounds and have so many different assets to bring to the table.  Be open to the knowledge of others.  As a leader, not knowing everything does not show that you are weak; it shows that you are human.  Perhaps you are the leader of a Greek organization on campus and need some direction for fundraising.  Don’t be afraid of asking one of the many other Greek orgs.  Be comfortable with the fact that you can’t possibly know it all. And someone else will know something you don’t.  Besides, just being at Emerson means we’re all leadership material anyway.


Make people feel they work for a winner.  Remind people that you are at the top for a reason.  You are the best in what you do.  Whether you are the director of a play, producer of a film, or president of a club, show people how successful you are, and how you can bring them success as well.


–Maggie Morlath  (Political Communication Major and Student Contributor)

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