Communication starts at the top — leaders are both messenger and message

It’s not enough to just have a strong message. How a leader portrays that message is equally important.

An effective leadership message has the right words based on the right actions and is delivered with the right attitude.

For example, a leader might know the content backward and forward but send a message of surliness in the delivery of that message. Attitude of the messenger is a fundamental building block of messaging.

It’s essential in any stakeholder interaction that the messenger looks and acts like they believe in the message they are conveying. Even though interacting with a particular person (employee, customer, vendor or plant neighbor) may be the last thing you want to do, it’s important to psyche up for every conversation.

What do you really want to say?

If you could just say one thing in the meeting you’re about to have and you only had a few words to say it, what would that be? And, if you could say a second thing what would that be?

That’s half the battle. The other half is to identify the specific examples that drive home the point you need to make. A message that is not supported by examples is nothing more than empty words.

If the message is, “We absolutely have to improve quality,” then the example might be that “11 percent of what we shipped out the door the last quarter came back because of defects.”

If the message is, “We need to stop operating as silos,” then the example might be, “Effective today, we are creating five cross-functional teams to address key parts of our annual plan.” 

Everyone has to know the “elevator speech”

You might be surprised at how many leaders (including CEOs) cannot explain their organization in a clear and concise manner. They can’t connect the thoughts and the words. Every leader absolutely must be able to address these five topics:

  1. Who we are.
  2. What we do.
  3. What we stand for.
  4. Why we’re distinctive.
  5. Where we’re heading.

These five topics speak to the issue of being able to explain your company clearly and concisely.

There’s an additional cornerstone of good messaging. The best messengers are almost always upbeat. Be relentlessly positive — truthful, but always positive.

Remember, when you’re delivering a message, you are the company.  You are all that people see and hear. That’s something to always keep in mind.

Davis Young is principal of DY Author & Speaker LLC. To learn more about best practices in communication, visit