October 12, 2011
The second CIPR Guest Lecture attracted yet another full house as Kevin Murray , CEO of the Bell Potinger Group delivered a fascinating lecture, based on his forthcoming book: The Language of Leaders.
Murray wrote the book after interviewing 54 chairmen, CEOs & Business Leaders as well as 3 military generals and 2 Police Commissioners to ascertain how leaders inspire and influence others to achieve the results the desire.
“It was my years spent as a journalist that I decided I was never going to stop learning and reporting on what it is I had learnt.”
In an era of radical transparency, leadership has also changed quite radically. The speed at which reputation can be damaged is accelerating and leaders need to build organisations that respond at the same speed. Murray illustrated this point by referencing the McLaren ‘Ferrarigate’ crisis that he was burdened with handling: “In the space of 30 minutes, the false rumour that McLaren had been kicked out the World Championship had been reported and dropped by media all over the globe.” This reiterates his notion of the ‘double edged sword of the modern digital world.’
The two fundamental concepts that Murray found imperative to effective leadership and organisational success were trust & engagement. Lack of trust in an organisation costs money, in terms of loss of sales and rebuilding a brand. With reference to Professor Gregory’s lecture and her example of Coca Cola’s valuation, Murray said “there is a shifting culture from managing tangibles, to enhancing the intangibles.”
Murray then highlighted the importance of emotional engagement with stakeholders using his interview with Sir Frank Williams, CEO of F1, as an example: all Sir Frank ever wanted to do was race, and his employees were worried that his successor would not have the same passion as he did.
“He couldn’t move himself, but he managed to move everyone in the organisation.” Murray advocates that passionate values are at the heart of reputation management. All members of the organisation must be empathetic to communicate effectively with stakeholder groups.
Another crucial part of an effective corporate communication is storytelling. Stories are powerful, and audiences co-create the story with you – they are the superglue of ‘conviction communication.’ Murray’s sentiment echoes one of Richard Bailey’s favourite quotes: “Branding is for cows, stories are for people!”
Murray concluded with the key message that professional communicators need to advise their leaders to inspire all stakeholders, as it is these people that are pivotal the success or failure of any organisation, quoting a paradoxical statement often used in modern leadership “Follow me, I’m right behind you!”