Communicate Like a Leader

Learn the formula to becoming a powerful communicator.

“The quality of your company is the quality of your communication.” This simple quote by Business Coach Robin Sharma says volumes about the importance of communicating like a leader.  Is there a formula for being a powerful communicator? The answer is “Yes.”  Even the charismatic Dr. Martin Luther King was failing in his “I Have a Dream” speech when he got off the formula—more on this later.

Let’s start with a definition of communication. One of my mentors, Marshall Thurber defines communication as “the response you get.” You sent out notice of the meeting, but hardly anyone showed up. Well, your communication was the response you got.  “Sending” is not communicating. If you want a particular response, you will need to communicate a compelling reason (a why) for your team to take action on your message.


Research on effective communicators found a simple, four-step formula: 

  1. Connection
  2. Vision/Problem
  3. Clarify a solution
  4. Passion for your message.
Steve Jobs took this formula to an art form in his Apple product launches. He connected with his audience, then pointed out a problem, clarified a solution, and delivered his message with such passion and belief that his product launches became world famous.  (See The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo.) The four-step formula will work for anyone. A study of charismatic speakers found no correlation with age, looks, or gender. The only correlation was with the speaker’s passion and belief in their message. So, you do not have to be tall, handsome, beautiful, or young to be charismatic. You just need to believe in your message and deliver it with passion following the four-step formula above.

A good friend of mine is a sales trainer named Ron Stickler. Ron is over 60 years old, has a brain injury and speaks with slurred speech. Given his circumstances, public speaking and sales training should be out of the question for him. Yet, he’s incredible! His ability to connect with his audience; show them they need what he has, and communicate his message with clarity and passion results in standing ovations. He follows the formula and his students love him.


When it comes to inspiring and leading others, there is an additional formula called “The Three Stories.” This research was documented in “Scientific American” and shows that people want to follow a leader who shares: who I am; who we are, and where we are going together.

Dr. Martin Luther King used the three stories formula in his “I Have a Dream Speech,” but only after nearly bombing in front of an audience of 250,000. As Dr. King labored through his prepared notes, the crowd was restless and loud, many were not listening, and others were leaving. He had great content but was not connecting with his audience.  Gospel Singer Mahalia Jackson, who was sitting on the stage behind Dr. King, sensed he was losing the crowd and shouted to him, “Tell them about the dream Martin! Tell them about the dream!” Dr. King departed from his prepared notes and spoke with passion from the heart. “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The audience reconnected. He shared the three stories. And, a 1999 poll of scholars named “I Have a Dream” as the top American speech of the 20th Century.

If you have a vision for your company, and you are passionate about that vision, simply follow the four-step formula and share the three stories. Your team will be inspired to follow you, and the quality of your communication will improve the quality of your company. You will be communicating like a leader. 

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of the REAL Trends Newsletter and is reprinted with permission of REAL Trends Inc. Copyright 2015.

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