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June 2011 - Leaders Should be Writers

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John A. Kline, PhD jkline@klinespeak.com
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Dr. John KlineMy May 2010 column was titled: “Leaders Must Be Communicators.” In the February, March, April and May columns of 2011, I was more specific. I stressed leaders must be listeners, be able to use non verbal communication, be good speakers, and be readers. But leaders should also be good writers. Here are some things to consider:

There is no excuse for not writing well. When people say, “I’ve never written well and I never will,” what they generally mean is, “I’m not willing to put forth the effort it would take to learn to write well.” Writing well should be a priority for leaders.

Anyone can learn to write well. Fifty years I did not write well, so I sought help from others; I listened to them and put their suggestions into practice. Within a few months my writing improved dramatically. Since then, my writing has continued to improve. While my writing is far from perfect, I write better today than ever before. And I am asked often to lead seminars on “How to Write Right.”

Clear writing reflects clear thinking. Extensive studies using the Nelson-Denny Reading Test and the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal demonstrate a strong positive correlation between scores from the two tests; that is, good writers are good thinkers. Furthermore, when subjects learn to write better, they become better thinkers. Since leaders must be thinkers, they should be clear writers.

Writing is a key leadership tool. While all great leaders are not great writers, writing helps leaders develop and clarify ideas and provides a written record that both helps followers understand the leaders’ directions and gives a written record for future reference. A clear written record reduces the possibility of misunderstanding.

Ability to write well enhances confidence.  Knowing one has expressed himself or herself well is a confidence builder.  My October 2008 Column expressed the importance of leaders being confident. Confident communicators are almost always confident leaders.

As I have written before, “If you can’t communicate, don’t try to lead.” Writing well is an important means of communication. Leaders should be writers.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

June 2011 - Leaders Should be Writers
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