Monday, May 2, 2011

Writing is an important leadership skill

Writing is an important leadership skill that is often overlooked. It is unlikely that you will ever see writing at the top of any list of important leadership skills. For a leader to be effective they must communicate their outlook, vision and worldview to the people they are leading. A leader who cannot communicate well using written words is going to be severely handicapped.  (You know who/what we are talking about here.)

Another reason leaders need to write is to help them develop and clarify their ideas. Much of what makes someone a good leader is his or her viewpoint and perspective. Someone who makes good decisions usually does so because of how they look at problems. Someone who instinctively does the right thing will often have a difficult time explaining their decision-making process to others.

A leader who doesn’t take the time to develop and refine ideas and viewpoint can still be successful. But they will have a difficult time replicating their skills in others. You can’t teach someone to have the same “gut feeling” as you.

Entire article by Mark Shead at LEADERSHIP 501 is HERE.

As others have suggested, leaders can have success without writing about their views and ideas but it unlikely they can be significant without clearly expressing their ideas, perspective and viewpoint.  More about success versus significance HERE.

1 comment:

Rubber Ducky said...

Much discussion lately in other blogs on writing for the Navy's professional journal, US Naval Institute Proceedings. Context has been the turmoil at USNI, its annual meeting, and the surrounding lament by some that it was too hard for serving officers and sailors to get published there. But as one O-5 with deep USNI experience put it at the annual meeting, the problem is that a fair bit of what is submitted is either poorly written (outside the realm of editor fixes), poorly thought out (not worth reading), or both.

Following are my Ten Commandments for Proceedings writers, until recently posted on its website. This is where writers for the professions need to start.

1. Write what you know. Don't waste your reader's time with casual opinion. Stick to subjects in which you have expertise.
2. Stake out intellectual territory. Put forward a clear, forceful point of view. Leave no doubt of what you think.
3. Aim your writing at a specific audience. Spanning the interests of the entire Proceedings readership in a single piece is difficult. Focus your writing. Be clear whom you expect to reach with your words.
4. Learn to write well. Study writing. Find a set of simple writing rules that make sense to you and stick to them. Make the labor of authorship invisible to the reader.
5. Don't let words mask ideas. Write in a simple style. Avoid cute phrasing that gets between the reader and the point you are making.
6. Keep it short. Be kind to your readers. Make every word count. When you've made your points, shut up.
7. Edit ruthlessly. Nobody gets it just right the first time. Keep editing until you can't make the piece better.
8. Work with your editor. Discuss the piece beforehand. Look at the edited version before it goes to the printer.
9. Take responsibility for your words. Don't let anyone steer you off what you really believe. Be pleased to have your name on the piece.
10. Be a purple-suiter. If you can't convince yourself that your writing will be positive for our nation and its security, don't write it.
11. And one more…Don’t be a wimp. If it needs said, say it. The system respects creative thinkers who speak new truths.