Feeling like a Leader? Here’s How to Sound like One, Too

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The drive to make a difference—in the office, at home, in society—is a common sentiment, but as we all know, it’s easier to dream about change than to enact it. In a recent Forbes article, lawyer and career strategist Avery Blank outlines five ways to develop the confidence you need to become a leader and empower yourself to make a difference:

  1. Identify your passion
  2. Don’t depend on other people to act
  3. Rethink risk
  4. Pursue respect, not likability
  5. Know what you want people to remember you by

Blank’s advice is inspiring, and her overall reminder that confidence and leadership go hand-in-hand is right on point. But even once you’ve embraced these five principles and begun to feel confident in your leadership abilities, you’ve only just begun.

The next step is to learn how to present yourself as a leader, straddling that fine line between confidence and vulnerability, between polish and authenticity, and expressing your passion in a way that makes it contagious.

Three Keys to Leadership Communication

Communication, of course, is the number-one way we can demonstrate leadership. Here are three foundational principles to keep in mind as you learn to communicate like a leader.

1. Build a Foundation of Confidence

If you’ve ever seen a speaker who just didn’t seem certain of his message or who looked like he’d rather be anywhere than on that stage, you know how damaging a lack of confidence can be to a leader’s credibility. So as you prepare for a big presentation, focus on making yourself comfortable in the space and ensuring you know your message inside and out (and that you believe in every bit of it). That way, when you get up on stage, you’ll feel collected and assured, and your confidence will rub off on your audience.

But keep in mind that your confidence shouldn’t obscure your personality. Many leaders, in an attempt to appear in control of the situation, slip into a very performative, blustery manner that may exude confidence but also strips them of the authenticity and vulnerability required to build trust with audiences.

Learn more about authentic communication.

2. Clarify Your Goals

Being memorable can have a lasting impact on your career. If you’re a memorable leader, folks constantly reflect on what you’ve said and the points you’ve made, or they think of you first when they’re looking for someone to spearhead a new initiative. But “being memorable” is an amorphous goal.

Start by thinking about your own leadership goals. What kind of reputation do you aspire to, and how do you want to be perceived? If you want to be known as a memorable entertainer, your next steps will be very different than if you want to be known as a visionary thinker. Once you have a handle on the desired outcome, you can tailor your communication style to help you achieve it.

Keep in mind, though, that no matter what you want to achieve, delivering your message clearly and precisely will make all the difference.

3. Use Your Voice

We often get so caught up in what we’re saying that we forget to think about howwe’re saying it. But just like a pianist’s performance hinges on how she plays the notes on the page, the way a leader uses her voice can make the difference between an inspired audience and a bored one.

Vocal variety plays a huge role in keeping listeners engaged. Think about the last time a friend told you about an amazing thing that happened. She was probably spoke a little more quickly and in a higher pitch during some parts and slowed down or paused for emphasis at others. All the way through, her voice reflected her emotions—and probably made you feel them, too.

Learn more about the power of voice.

There’s no doubt that leadership is hard work, and to be truly effective, you’ll need to master a number of skills. But communication is the foundation that can truly make or break a leader’s reputation and ability to impact audiences and effect change. And, when you start communicating like a leader, we can guarantee you’ll start to feel more like one, too.