Great Communication Secrets of Great Leaders: A Book Review by Bob Morris

Great Communication Secrets
John Baldoni
McGraw-Hill (2003)

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
 George Bernard Shaw

I read this book when it was first published (2003) and recently re-read it, curious to know how well John Baldoni’s insights have held up since then. In my opinion, they are more valuable now than they were then, given the much greater importance effective communication now has in a multi-cultural as well as multi-dimensional global marketplace.

These are the great communicators on whom Baldoni focuses, listed in alpha order:

Winston Churchill
Peter Drucker
Rudy Giuliani
Katherine Graham
Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Shelly Lazarus
Vince Lombardi
George C. Marshall
Harvey Penick
Colin Powell
Mother Teresa
Bill Veeck
Jack Welch
Oprah Winfrey

In Chapters 1-8 and 11-12, he devotes a separate chapter to one great communicator. He discusses two in Chapter 9 (Mother Teresa and Marshall) and in Chapter 10 (Lombardi and Penick). Yes, these are indeed odd couples and serve to illustrate one of Baldoni’s key points: just as great leaders such as these 14 come in all shapes and sizes, each also has a unique communication style.

Just for fun, I came up with my own list of 14 other great communicators who were also leaders. They include Corazon Aquino, Mary Kay Ash, Warren Buffett, Walt Disney, Mohandas Gandhi, Billy Graham, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, Sam Walton, and John Wooden. Once again, they offer a wide variety of shapes and sizes in terms of personality and communication style. And they have mastered most of the skills examined and explained in this book.

That said, I agree with Baldoni that there are general lessons to be learned from those he discusses that can be of substantial value to leaders in almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. For example:

o Make it crystal clear what will be achieved and why it is important to everyone involved.
o Engage people’s hearts and minds. Recruit cooperation and collaboration by asking the right questions and then listening carefully to what people share. Whenever possible, use only first-person plural pronouns.
o Effective leadership depends on accomplishing results through others’ efforts. People need resources but they also need understanding to believe the given objective is worth their involvement. Always.
o Level with people. They deserve to know what the realities are.
o What you say and what you do should be seamless.
o Care and let others know it. If you don’t care, why should they?

John Baldoni offers an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help almost any leader. indeed almost anyone, to become a much more effective communicator, not only in a business context but in almost any other situation in which there is a message to delivered. The 14 real-world examples invest the material with human relevance. It remains for each reader to read and (if possible) re-read the material, then select whatever is most relevant to the given circumstances and get to work mastering the skills needed.

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